Chattanooga businessman and Republican party leader Harold Coker passed away early Sunday morning after falling at his home. He was 84 years old.  He was born in Brasstown, N.C., on Dec. 24, 1929, but grew up in Athens, Tennessee.  He attended Tennessee Wesleyan College, and later graduated from Tennessee Technical University.

His once-modest tire store on Brainerd Road reflected a lifelong love of automobiles, and eventually became a business with worldwide reach.  His son Corky now runs the business, which was recently featured on a Travel Channel reality show called "Backroad Gold." It is now located on Chestnut Street in downtown Chattanooga, primarily featuring rare tires for antique autos.

Mr. Coker was a a Hamilton County Commissioner from 1982 to 2002, serving several terms as chairman. He represented District 7, which includes most of the East Brainerd area.  He retired from the tire business in 2004.

He and Lillian,  his wife of 61 years, were very active in the local Republican party, campaigning as recently as this year for several candidates. Coker considered education one of his top priorities, helping promote school needs in the 1980s by encouraging residents to donate needed items to county schools.  Among his proudest accomplishments was working to create Enterprise South Industrial Park on the former VAAP property, which opened the area to new employers like Amazon and Volkswagen.

Mr. Coker opened his tire store in 1958 in Athens, then moved it to Chattanooga in 1961. He branched out into politics in the 1980s.  In 1988, he challenged 14-year Democratic incumbent Marilyn Lloyd for the 3rd District Congressional seat, but was unsuccessful.  He remained on the County Commission after losing the Congressional race. 

READ MORE | WRCB news story from 1988 campaign 

Mr. Coker and his wife frequently hosted political and community gatherings at his farm on Standifer Gap Road, which housed a collection of classic cars, a lifetime hobby.

County Trustee Bill Hullander, a two-term County Commissioner whose district (9) adjoined Coker's, said he was fortunate to serve alongside him.  "He started from scratch and helped build a worldwide business.  He knew how to get things done, and he really helped this community."

Mr. Coker was a member of Woodland Park Baptist Church.  In addition to his wife, he is survived by his sons Corky and David, and daughter Christy.


Visitation will be at Chattanooga Funeral Home East on Tuesday, November 18th from 3:00-7:30pm. The public is invited to a Celebration of Life service on Wednesday at 2pm at Woodland Park Baptist Church.