Founding Fathers: William Emerson Brock & William Emerson Brock Jr.

Brock Candy Company 

The businesses that employ members of your family. The scenic spots where you bring your out of town relatives. The route you ride your bike on Saturdays. The hospital that helped your kids get well. What these aspects of our daily lives have in common is that they were all made possible by people who founded not only some of Chattanooga’s most enduring businesses, but a large part of the makeup of our city as we know it today.

The men and women featured here didn’t just create profitable, lasting companies and institutions. They shaped the history, infrastructure, and culture of our city, overcoming challenges such as the Great Depression, personal illness, and shifting economies, to make a positive impact on the lives around them. They might not have known in the early years and the lean years if their businesses would survive, much less change the fate of the little boom town on the river. But by daring to start new business ventures, creating charitable organizations, opening tourist attractions, preserving land, and building iconic buildings, they became not just a part of Chattanooga’s history, but integral to its future.

By Meghan O’Dea

William Emerson Brock, Sr., circa 1910s

William Emerson Brock, Sr., circa 1910s

If ever there were pioneering businessmen and civic and community leaders in Chattanooga,
they were William Emerson Brock Sr. and his son William Emerson Brock Jr. W.E. Brock Sr. was born in Davie County, North Carolina. When his father passed away, he had to leave school after the fourth grade and run the farm to support his mother and siblings. When he came to Chattanooga in his twenties, he borrowed $4,000 to buy a candy wholesaler and started making candy in the back room. Three years later, it became the Brock Candy Company.

W.E. Brock Sr. not only grew the company, but he became a leader in Chattanooga’s business, community, and public activities. His involvements culminated in his being appointed as a U.S. Senator in 1928.

At that time W. E. Brock Jr. took the reins of the candy company, leading it through the tumultuous years of the Great Depression, World War II, and beyond. When the Great Depression made it impossible to make payroll, he borrowed the payroll cash from the Hamilton National Bank. (The loan was fi nally paid off in full some 14 years later, a cause for great celebration.) By 1950, Brock Candy had become one of the largest candy manufacturers in the U.S.

Like his father, W.E. Brock Jr. constantly worked for Chattanooga’s improvement. One of the founders of what is now United Way of Greater Chattanooga, he served as Chairman of the Board of the University of Chattanooga, guiding it through its transformation to become the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He also was a leader in the peaceful desegregation of our city, and later received national recognition for his work.

It is important to note the contributions of the extraordinary wives of these two men. Miriam Acree Brock, wife of W.E. Brock Sr., helped found a number of churches in the city’s minority community, for many years taught the city’s largest men’s bible class at Trinity Methodist Church, and with Dr. J.P. McCallie helped bring bible teaching to Chattanooga’s public schools. Myra (Peggy) Kruesi Brock, wife of W.E. Brock Jr., was active in countless community service activities throughout her life, and was even a volunteer with Hospice at the time of her passing.

W.E. Brock Jr.’s sons Bill, Pat, and Frank have continued the Brock legacy, Bill Brock as a U.S. Senator and as a member of Ronald Reagan’s Cabinet; Pat Brock leading the candy company to national success; and Frank Brock becoming the president of our own Covenant College.

Each has found a way to make a difference – a determination which may have first taken root in the hard clay soil of Davie County North Carolina.

 

To Read About More of Chattanooga’s Founding Fathers, click the following links:

John Lupton

Robert H. Siskin

Thomas Maclellan

Leo & Ruby Lambert

Garnet & Frieda Carter

Jim Berry

Thomas Hooke McCallie and Descendants

Harry S. Probasco & Descendants

Rody Davenport & Sons

O.D. and Ruth McKee

William Emerson Brock & William Emerson Brock Jr.

Adolph Ochs

Zeboim Cartter Patten

 

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