Cas Walker -- one of a kind.
The picture of Vernon Cornett and his mules on the front page of the Yonder the other day brought to mind Cas Walker.
People in the southern mountains are probably familiar with Cas, aka Orton Caswell Walker. He owned a chain of grocery stores in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and up in Middlesboro, Kentucky. “Nobody can beat my meat,” Cas would say.
Cas was a character. He was probably best known for his television show where Dolly Parton performed as a young girl. He was a city council member and was eventually elected mayor of Knoxville in 1946. Cas caused such uproars within city council that he was ousted in a recall election not long after. There was a picture that appeared in Life Magazine showing Cas throwing a haymaker at one of his fellow city council members.
The Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound, based in Knoxville, has created a DVD (not for sale yet) that has some segments of the unvarnished Cas Walker. One of those is in the YouTube above. It’s wonderful.
There’s a quote attributed to George Dempster — yes that Dempster– in Bruce Wheeler’s book: Knoxville, Tennessee: Mountain City in the New South that pretty much summed up Cas Walker: “If I ordered a whole carload of SOB’s and they just sent Cas, I’d sign for the shipment.”
Guys like Cas, if there were any like him, can drive you mad. But you have to be grateful for them. He died in 1998.