published Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Roberts: Memories of Jack Lupton's local legacy

By Dalton Roberts

Most of the accolades for Jack Lupton have dealt with his contributions to Chattanooga. As substantial as those were, I will mostly miss him as a person of sterling worth.

I saw some of those personal attributes the first time I met him. He sent me a campaign check for $500, and it was quite rare for me to get a contribution of that size from someone I had never met. Any time I received such a contribution, I always asked the person if they had anything in particular they expected from me.

I went to see him and said, "Thanks for your check. Is there anything in particular you expect of me?" He answered, "Not a thing." So we just small-talked a few minutes. As my hand was on the doorknob to leave, he said, "Yes, there is something I want. I want you to keep doing that job exactly as you have been doing it."

I left there feeling good. When such a mover and shaker likes the way you are moving and shaking, it cannot help but make you feel a little taller. With such a personal affirmation, I don't think anyone could have ever made me dislike Jack Lupton.

Jack didn't care much for politicians, and he especially disliked the snail-like pace of political decision-making. After a meeting one day, he asked Mayor Gene Roberts and me to walk down the hall for a personal chat. We found an empty room, and he sat down on the end of a table and urgently said, "Help me! Help me! I want to do something for Chattanooga, and it is moving so slow."

I am absolutely certain if we had done a poll that the majority of locals would have said "Jack's fish tank" was a bad idea. I remember well that I was on a local morning news show endorsing the Tennessee Aquarium, and most of the callers were sharply critical.

Gene and I told him we had to have the support of the City Counci and County Commission for any project but we were both working on it. If he had been an elected person, I am certain the molasses inherent to politics would have ravaged his nervous system.

One of my favorite things about him was his great sense of humor. A man of considerable influence in the community wanted to do a certain project, and the board turned him down several times. He just kept coming back, and after one of his visits, Jack said, "He's a good guy but hard-headed. You could stick a 357 Magnum to his forehead and fire, and he would just flick a finger across his forehead and say, 'What was theat?' "

One day I had an appointment with a developer at the Mountain City Club. When I arrived, a club employee told me the man was waiting for me upstairs in the billiard hall. Jack was playing on the opposite end of the hall. When he saw me, he said, "Look what the dogs just dragged in! What you doing here?"

I said, "Jack, it's a new policy of the board of directors. You folks on Lookout have intermarried so much they are bringing in some Watering Trough folks to upgrade the bloodline."

He slapped his leg and we both laughed heartily.

E-mail Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.

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