Opening day for the Chattanooga Lookouts on April 17, 1946, drew more than 11,000 fans to Engel Stadium, according to newspaper reports. Among them was one of Chattanooga's post-war power couples.
Using facial recognition software, Chattanooga history buff Sam Hall was able to determine that the woman shown prominently in the accompanying photo is Bess T. Shepherd, who died in 1981 but whose name lives on through one of Hamilton County's schools, Bess T. Shepherd Elementary School.
Sitting beside her left shoulder in the photo is Will Shepherd, Bess' husband and a well-known Chattanooga journalist and publisher. Will Shepherd, who died at age 65 in 1947, began his journalism career as a cub reporter for the Chattanooga Times in 1910 and later purchased the Hamilton County Herald newspaper with his wife in 1919, according to news reports.
Hall, curator of the website ChattanoogaHistory.com, said in an email that he uses facial-recognition technology to identify people in old photos. "I look for named persons in newspapers and other sources and then cross-reference to potential matches in other photos," Hall said. "Will Shepherd was a well-known public figure and matched in many photos."
Bess T. Shepherd Elementary, at 7126 Tyner Road, is named for the former Hamilton County school board member who was also a beloved elementary school teacher in the Tyner community.
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.
In an editorial written after her death in 1981, the Chattanooga Times editorial board said Bess T. Shepherd "was a gentlewoman in every sense of the word. She was devoted to her family, her church and her community, and she gave unsparingly of herself and her talents."
Her obituary noted that Bess T. Shepherd taught Sunday school at Chattanooga's First Baptist Church for 44 years. She was also a member of the local chapters of the Junior League and the Daughters of the American Revolution, according to a news report. She was 87 years old when she died.
Will Shepherd was an accomplished newspaperman who became a publisher in midlife, purchasing the Hamilton County Herald with his wife.
In a report published shortly after his death in 1947, the Chattanooga Daily Times wrote that in his role as publisher and writer, Mr. Shepherd "wrote lightly and entertainingly, whether it was about the news of the day or about some old crony who got in the news."
Will Shepherd was also an avid baseball fan, which explains his presence at the Lookouts game in the photo. According to a newspaper report, Shepard was part of a "battery of hecklers who sat for years on the third-base side" of Engel Stadium.
Opening day at Engel Stadium was nearly a municipal holiday in the 1940s, with fans dressed in their Sunday finest for the occasion. The Chattanooga News-Free Press reported that the Lookouts defeated the Nashville Vols 3-1 on opening day in 1946.
A writer for the newspaper added: "Yesterday's introduction of post-war baseball (in Chattanooga) was a howling success."
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