published Thursday, May 16th, 2013

City Beat: Lookout Mountain no longer controlling things

"Lookout Mountain controls everything."

When was the last time you heard that?

You used to hear it as often as you heard "The private schools get all the attention," and "I can't wait to get out of this town."

You don't hear two of three much anymore.

I'm here to officially declare that Lookout Mountain no longer controls Chattanooga.

Oh, some of the folks who live up there still play key roles in some of the decision-making, but not like they used to. Like a lot of clichés, there was some truth to the Lookout Mountain line, of course.

Tommy Reynolds and Dan East made minor careers of poking fun at the way the swells on Lookout pulled the strings. Much of their shtick as Dr. Shock and Dingbat, respectively, on "Shock Theatre" was centered on the power structure.

To raise money before he moved to California to become a star back in the early to mid-'80s, actor/comedian Leslie Jordan performed at the old Vine Street Market to raise money for his trip. Part of his routine focused on poking fun at the rich and powerful.

City cheerleaders like to point to the "Chattanooga way" as being a big part of our recent renaissance. Cooperation between all walks of people, corporations, businesses and politicians is the secret behind our success, they tell anyone who will listen.

They are correct, but the reality is that a few people, many with a 37350 ZIP code, gave the Chattanooga way a big leg up. The Chattanooga way owes much to people like the late Jack Lupton and the foundations that have funded so many projects.

But several things have happened to change the power structure. Many of those Lookout Mountain folks have died, are disengaged because of age or have moved. The city, or its people, more correctly, have learned to stand on their own two legs, so to speak.

The previous mayor, Ron Littlefield, who was not part of the so-called Lookout Mountain power group, did help facilitate the shift, if only by not being "one of them."

More and more, we see people doing great things who have no idea about how things used to be done. They don't care. They simply come up with an idea or a plan, set about making it work and getting others to support it.

What this all means is that some people are having to rethink how things get done and learning new methods of doing things. They are also learning who the new players are. In any case, it's fair to say that the old Lookout Mountain way is no more.

Contact staff writer Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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