William Emerson Brock, Sr., circa 1910s
If ever there were pioneering businessmen and civic and community leaders in Chattanooga,
they were William Emerson Brock Sr. and his son William Emerson Brock Jr. W.E. Brock Sr. was born in Davie County, North Carolina. When his father passed away, he had to leave school after the fourth grade and run the farm to support his mother and siblings. When he came to Chattanooga in his twenties, he borrowed $4,000 to buy a candy wholesaler and started making candy in the back room. Th ree years later, it became the Brock Candy Company.
W.E. Brock Sr. not only grew the company, but he became a leader in Chattanooga’s
business, community, and public activities. His involvements culminated in his being appointed as a U.S. Senator in 1928.
At that time W. E. Brock Jr. took the reins of the candy company, leading it through the tumultuous years of the Great Depression, World War II, and beyond. When the Great Depression made it impossible to make payroll, he borrowed the payroll cash from the Hamilton National Bank. (The loan was fi nally paid off in full some 14 years later, a cause for great celebration.) By 1950, Brock Candy had become one of the largest candy manufacturers in the U.S.
Like his father, W.E. Brock Jr. constantly worked for Chattanooga’s improvement. One of the founders of what is now United Way of Greater Chattanooga, he served as Chairman of the Board of the University of Chattanooga, guiding it through its transformation to become the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He also was a leader in the peaceful desegregation of our city, and later received national recognition for his work.
It is important to note the contributions of the extraordinary wives of these two men. Miriam Acree Brock, wife of W.E. Brock Sr., helped found a number of churches in the city’s minority community, for many years taught the city’s largest men’s bible class at Trinity Methodist Church, and with Dr. J.P. McCallie helped bring bible teaching to Chattanooga’s public schools. Myra (Peggy) Kruesi Brock, wife of W.E. Brock Jr., was active in countless community service activities throughout her life, and was even a volunteer with Hospice at the time of her passing.
W.E. Brock Jr.’s sons Bill, Pat, and Frank have continued the Brock legacy, Bill Brock as a U.S. Senator and as a member of Ronald Reagan’s Cabinet; Pat Brock leading the candy company to national success; and Frank Brock becoming the president of our own Covenant College.
Each has found a way to make a difference – a determination which may have first taken root in the hard clay soil of Davie County North Carolina.