Cas Walker was unique and a success
Tom Walker shot the father of the Lane brothers resulting in his leg being amputated. Lane’s boys decided to take it out on Tom’s son, Cas Walker. The elder Walker wanted Cas to go to Kentucky and work, fearing brothers Cas and Pink Lane would kill him if he remained home in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.
Cas had five brothers and seven sisters but if that wasn’t enough his father found a little boy crying on a country road some twenty-five years earlier. Bill Free, the young lad of five or six years old, was taken in and raised like a son. Years later Bill would get a job with Champion Pulp & Fibre Company in North Carolina and help young Cas Walker get a job there too.
When Cas was nearly killed and left for dead in a sinkhole his dad knew something had to be done to protect him. The two Lane brothers had already dug a grave for young Walker. Their devious plan was thwarted when Bill Free whisked him off to Ages, Kentucky at the direction of Cas’s father. Bill Free had started working in a coal mine in Harlan not long before. Harlan County was referred to as Harlan for many years with the city of Harlan referred to as Harlan-Town.
Cas told about his father attending a revival meeting a year or so before. Cas’s girlfriend at the time was a fine Christian, he would never date none other. She saw that Mr. Walker was moved by the message and asked if he would accept the Lord.
“I’ve killed twenty-some men and the Lord won’t take me,” he told her.
“Come to the meeting tomorrow night? I’m going to read my Bible and find a place where Jesus will forgive you,” she answered. She went right to him when he arrived the next night.
“Now Mr. Walker, the Lord will accept you if you killed someone in self-defense. He’ll forgive you if you tell him you’ve sinned but you’re turning from your old ways and want to accept Him in your heart.” Tom Walker accepted Jesus as his savior that night.
Cas Walker’s mother sent for him on the night his dad died. His Dad wanted badly to see him before he passed. Cas was married by this time to Jenny, his lifelong mate. Cas and Jenny walked two miles in the cold and mud, arriving close to 12 p.m.
“Are you sure you are ready to meet the Lord,” Jenny inquired of Mr. Walker. “Yes I’m ready but Cas I want you to straighten out my crooked leg no matter what you have to do. I don’t want to lay there dead with my leg sticking up when folks come to see me.”
Cas said he did have to break his bad leg although he didn’t say what means he took to accomplish it.
Cas Walker was always a good worker and saved his money. In 1924 he came back to Knoxville and opened his first store… the Cas Walker Cash Store advertising “get the savings of your life when you shop at the sign of the shears.”
In 1929 he began an association with WIVK and later WROL where he promoted area musicians in addition to advertising his stores. Later it expanded to television. Dolly Parton, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Carl Smith, the Everly Brothers and many others credit these appearances for being a big role in getting established in their musical careers.
Walker used other novel methods to create interest in his stores. On Saturdays he would release live chickens off the roof of his store. It brought a lot of excitement as well as good word-of-mouth advertising as several individuals caught a chicken. The event brought thousands of individuals over time and business bustled. Cas also utilized coupons and had store ads dropped from airplanes. He was a master merchandiser. His chain of stores In Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia eventually had annual sales approaching $60 million.
Early in Cas’s career he ran for and became a member of the Knoxville City Council and eventually became vice-mayor. Following the death of the mayor Cas gravitated to the post of mayor. He was always opinionated and his term was volatile. It added to his mystique.
Cas Walker was one of the most unique characters to come from our mountain area.
Editor’s note: Jadon Gibson is a widely read Appalachian writer from Harrogate, TN. His writings are both historical and nostalgic in nature and can be read periodically at bereaonline.com. Don’t miss a single issue!