In 1963, Ralph Kelley became the youngest man ever elected mayor of Chattanooga, and the women in the accompanying photo were partly responsible.
The photo of Kelley's campaign volunteers was published in the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Feb. 27, 1963, a couple of weeks before the municipal election pitting Kelley, a 34-year-old Chattanooga attorney, against incumbent mayor P.R. "Rudy" Olgiati.
The photo was taken by newspaper photographer Bob Sherrill and is part of a collection of images donated to ChattanoogaHistory.com by the Kelley family.
On election day in March 1963, Kelley bested the 12-year incumbent Olgiati by a vote count of 14,984 to 13,562. It was the heaviest turnout to date for a mayor's race in Chattanooga, according to a newspaper report.
Kelley's wife, Barbara Kelley, said in a phone interview this week she remembered the bonnets in the photo being accompanied by a slogan: "Put on your campaign bonnet, with Kelley printed on it."
Kelley, who was known for supporting racial harmony in the city, helped desegregate all city-owned facilities shortly after his election in 1963.
"At least we kept Chattanooga off the front page of national newspapers at a time that they were highlighting actions across the South," Kelley said in a news report years after he had left office.
Kelley served as Chattanooga's mayor from 1963 to 1969. He was re-elected in 1967, and two years into his second term he accepted an appointment to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court bench here, according to the city of Chattanooga website.
Kelley was a graduate of the University of Chattanooga and Vanderbilt University Law School. By the time he ran for mayor he had been a practicing attorney here for nine years, according to a news report.
In his election day report, News-Free Press reporter J.B. Collins wrote, "A trial lawyer by trade, (Kelley) opened his campaign for mayor in a free-swinging style and maintained the aggressive style throughout ... the pre-election period."
Kelley died of cancer in 2004.
Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, ChattanoogaHistory.com is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available. If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives or original nondigital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.
To read earlier reports in this series visit ChattanoogaHistory.com or join the "Remember When, Chattanooga?" public group on Facebook.