Biographical / Historical
Robert Sparks Walker was born on February 4, 1878 in a log cabin in Chattanooga named Spring Frog Cabin, which was said to have been built by the Cherokee Indians in the 1700s. As a child Mr. Walker attended school at Walnut Grove, now in East Brainerd. He attended Maryville College and later earned, in 1905, a law degree from Grant University (formerly Chattanooga University and now the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.) In 1904 he married Elberta Clark. They had two children, Robert Sparks Walker, Jr., and Wendell Clark Walker. In 1915 tragedy struck the family as their oldest son, Robert Sparks Walker, Jr. was run over and killed by a car. The shock of witnessing this accident affected his parents deeply, especially Mrs. Walker whose health declined continuously. She passed away in 1924. Mr. Walker never remarried. Over the next several decades Mr. Walker wrote many books, including State Flowers and State Birds, As the Indians Left It, Lookout: The Story of a Mountain, and Torchlight to the Cherokees, published by the MacMillan Company, which was nominated in 1931 for a Pulitzer Prize. His articles and poems also appeared in over six hundred newspapers and magazines for several decades, including the New York Times, Better Homes and Gardens, the Christian Science Monitor, and Nature Magazine. Mr. Walker once estimated that he sold over 1000 poems and 500 articles, mostly on nature themes. Mr. Walker also wrote a nature column for the Chattanooga Sunday Times for more than twenty-five years. In 1944 Mr. Walker helped found a local Audubon Society which was named the Robert Sparks Walker Audubon Society, but later was renamed to the Chattanooga Audubon Society at Mr. Walker’s request. He was also president of the Tennessee State Horticultural Society and a life member of the Tennessee Academy of Science. Mr. Walker devoted a large part of his life to the development of the Elise Chapin Wildlife Sanctuary which was located near Spring Frog Cabin, where he was born. It was one of his favorite places and for years he spent nearly every day there, regardless of the weather. He was also involved with other Chattanooga landmarks, such as Maclellan Island, Fuller Ridge, and Hutcheson Refuge, all of which became Audubon Society possessions. Mr. Walker died on September 26, 1960 following a heart attack while walking in the Elise Chapin Wildlife Sanctuary. He is buried next to Spring Frog Cabin in Audubon Acres, in south Chattanooga.