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1897-1899 Edmond Watkins

EWatkins1897-99(Lived May 11, 1849 – March 19, 1920)

Born in Richmond County, North Carolina, Edmond Watkins grew up on a family plantation in Neshoba County, Mississippi.  An 1872 graduate of the University of Mississippi, Watkins received his law degree from Cumberland University in Nashville.  He practiced law in Meridian, Mississippi for thirteen years before moving to Chattanooga. 

Watkins arrived in Chattanooga on Janurary 15th, 1887 as a land boom was sweeping the area, and land speculation was high.  Upon his arrival, Watkins purchased one thousand acres of land east of the National Cemetery.  Watkins returned to Mississippi to find investors in this property, bringing back several men who became prominent in the city’s businesses.

In 1889, Edmond G. Watkins marveled at his latest construction.  It was more than just a home for his wife and family; it was a monument to the rebirth of the south after surviving the Civil War.  Built from the Union Army redoubt, Fort Wood, stones that had once seen battles now saw a future of beauty and elegance.

For his eagerness in seeing Chattanooga prosper after the trials of the War Between the States, Watkins was elected mayor of the Scenic City in 1897, thus allowing his Victorian Romanesque home to become the Mayor's Mansion. Today, the restored Mayor's Mansion Inn is Chattanooga's only AAA 4 Diamond property.

In 1888 Watkins became president of the Lookout Mountain Land Company and the Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain Railway Company, which built the broad gauge rail line up Lookout Mountai.  In 1892, a local newspaper credited Watkins with the claim that “the development of the mountain is due largely to Watkins’ energy, activity and enterprise.”

Watkins also served as president of the Tennessee State Bar Association.

Photo by Phillip Stevens and Matt Lea