George Roby Dempster

Last updated
George Roby Dempster
Born(1887-09-16)September 16, 1887 [1]
Knoxville, Tennessee, United States
DiedSeptember 18, 1964(1964-09-18) (aged 77)
Knoxville, Tennessee
Resting placeGreenwood Cemetery
Knoxville, Tennessee
OccupationBusinessman, inventor, politician
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s)Mildred Frances Seymour [2]
ChildrenGeorge S. Dempster
Josephine Dempster (Epperson)
Ann Dempster (Smallman)
Parent(s)John Dempster and Ann Doherty

George Roby Dempster (September 16, 1887 September 18, 1964) was an American businessman, inventor, and politician, active primarily in Knoxville, Tennessee, during the first half of the 20th century. Dempster is known for the invention of the Dempster-Dumpster, a now-commonly-used trash receptacle that can be mechanically emptied into garbage trucks. During the 1910s and 1920s, the Dempster Brothers Construction Company, operated by Dempster and his brothers, built a number of roads and railroads across the Southern Appalachian region. [2] Dempster also served as a city manager and mayor of Knoxville, where he became known for his political battles with eccentric Knoxville businessman Cas Walker and Knoxville Journal editor Guy Smith, Jr. [3]

Contents

Biography

Early life

Dempster was born in 1887, the ninth child of Scottish immigrant John Dempster and Irish immigrant Ann Doherty. John Dempster co-managed Scott, Dempster and Company, a gristmilling firm that operated a mill on First Creek. As a teenager, George Dempster travelled around the country working odd jobs for various companies, including the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, the Atlanta, Birmingham and Atlantic Railroad, and the Ward Line shipping company. A railroad strike in 1903 left him briefly stranded in a hobo colony in Iowa. [4] Dempster graduated from the Girls High School in Knoxville in 1906, having served as the school's class president. [2]

After high school, Dempster worked as a steam shovel operator on the Panama Canal project, excavating the canal's Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks. [4] During the project, Dempster nearly lost his life on several occasions when rock slides caused his steam shovel to flip over. He also contracted typhoid fever, and bickered with famed physician William C. Gorgas over the most effective treatment. [4] One of Dempster's earliest innovations was a device that allowed his shovel's dipper to mechanically empty its load. [4]

Business career

After returning to Knoxville, Dempster, along with his brothers, Thomas and John, formed the Dempster Brothers Construction Company, which built roads, railroads, and small dams in Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and Kentucky. [2] While initially lucrative, the company was forced into bankruptcy at the onset of the Great Depression. Dempster's Fountain City home (still standing at the corner of Broadway and Gibbs) was auctioned off to pay his debts. [4]

In spite of these setbacks, Dempster and his brothers reorganized their remaining resources to form Dempster Brothers, Inc., which focused on heavy machinery. [2] In 1935, the company introduced the "Dempster-Dumpster," the first large-scale waste container that could be mechanically emptied into a garbage truck. As orders for this product arrived from around the world, the company devoted all of its resources to the production of Dempster-Dumpsters. [4] In 1939, the company introduced the Dempster-Balester, which crushed and baled automobiles. [4] During World War II, the company produced pontoon boats and other equipment for the US Navy. [2] The company introduced the Dempster Dumpmaster, the first front-loading garbage truck, in the 1950s.

The Dempster Brothers plant on Springdale Avenue in Knoxville consisted of eleven buildings on 27 acres (11 ha), and employed 450 workers. [4] For humanitarian purposes, the plant employed a large number of handicapped workers. The plant served as a training ground of sorts for welders and machinists who would later work on nearby Tennessee Valley Authority and Atomic Energy Commission projects. [4]

Knoxville politics

Dempster, a lifelong Democrat, became actively involved in Knoxville politics during the 1920s. In 1929, he was named city manager, a position created earlier in the decade. After his appointment, he convinced the state legislature to merge the offices of city manager and mayor. This move proved unpopular, and Dempster was defeated by W. W. Mynatt in the mayoral election of 1937. Dempster continued to lead the opposition to Mynatt, forming an alliance with Knoxville businessman Cas Walker, who had a strong populist backing in the city. [3]

During the 1930s, while city manager, Dempster began to clash with Guy Smith, Jr., editor of the Republican-leaning Knoxville Journal. Smith once stated that Dempster should be "relegated to the political ash heap and buried so deeply that one of his own Dumpsters can't dig him out." [3] Dempster, likewise, quietly ordered the police to scour the city for Smith's car, and tow it away if it was illegally parked (which it often was). Smith ordered Journal photographers to crop Dempster from favorable group shots, and Dempster organized a raid that caught Journal owner Roy Lotspeich with a large supply of illegal whiskey. [3]

Running on an anti-tax platform, Dempster's allies managed to recapture the mayor's office in 1945, and Dempster was again appointed city manager. Dempster broke his campaign pledge, and proposed new city property taxes. This provoked the ire of Walker, who immediately mounted a campaign against Dempster. Walker blasted Dempster's new taxes, and claimed that "gambling, whiskey and prostitution" flourished when Dempster was in power. [3] After Walker was elected mayor in 1946, Dempster resigned as city manager. Walker's new city manager, Paul Morton, accused Dempster of cronyism, and undid most of Dempster's contracts and pay raises. [3]

Walker's term as mayor proved tumultuous, and Dempster's allies managed to oust Walker in a recall election in 1947. Dempster was elected mayor in 1951. His tenure was largely stagnant, as two major textile mills closed, and the downtown area declined with the rise of suburban shopping centers. After he proposed a modest tax increase, Knoxvillians revolted, and voted him out of office in 1955. [3]

State politics

Dempster served as campaign manager for Henry Horton's gubernatorial campaign in 1928, and was subsequently appointed the state's commissioner of finance and taxation. In 1932, he was appointed to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Commission, which was responsible for buying land for the national park. Dempster ran for governor in 1940, and lost in the primaries to Prentice Cooper. [2]

Later life

Dempster was named a delegate to the 1956 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, although he largely retired from city politics after his defeat in 1955. [2] He later rejoined his old nemesis Cas Walker in a successful attempt to thwart city-county consolidation, which was soundly rejected by Knoxville and Knox County voters in a 1959 referendum. [3] Dempster died of a heart attack on September 18, 1964. Over 1,000 mourners, among them US senators Al Gore, Sr., and Herbert S. Walters, crowded into the St. James Episcopal Church for Dempster's funeral. [4] He was buried next to his wife in Greenwood Cemetery.

Legacy

Buildings constructed during Dempster's tenures as city manager and mayor include the Henley Street Bridge, the Church Avenue and Fifth Avenue viaducts, four public library branches, and Bill Meyer Stadium. He also convinced the city to buy Chilhowee Park and Tyson Park. [4] Dempster built several houses in Knoxville, some of which still stand in Fountain City and Old North Knoxville. [4] [5]

Dempster hired the city's first African-American civil service secretary, and supported desegregation in the 1950s and 1960s. [4] He championed a number causes in support of the handicapped and the blind, including a radio program that featured blind pianists. [4] He was given the Father Abram Ryan Award by the Knights of Columbus in recognition of his civil service shortly before his death. [2]

Related Research Articles

Knoxville, Tennessee City in Tennessee, United States

Knoxville is a city in the U.S. state of Tennessee, and the county seat of Knox County. As of the 2010 census, the city has a population of 178,874, and is Tennessee's third largest city after Nashville and Memphis. Knoxville is the principal city of the Knoxville Metropolitan Statistical Area, which was 868,546 in 2015.

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee City in Tennessee, United States

Pigeon Forge is a mountain resort city in Sevier County, Tennessee, in the southeastern United States. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 5,875. Situated just 5 miles (8 km) north of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pigeon Forge is a tourist destination that caters primarily to Southern culture and country music fans. The city's attractions include Dollywood and Dollywood's Splash Country as well as numerous gift shops, outlet malls, amusement rides, and musical theaters.

Garbage truck truck specially designed to collect small quantities of waste and haul the collected waste to a solid waste treatment facility

A garbage truck is a truck specially designed to collect municipal solid waste and transport it to a solid waste treatment facility, such as a landfill or transfer station. Other common names for this type of truck include trash truck in the United States, and refuse truck, dustcart, rubbish truck, junk truck, bin wagon, dustbin lorry, bin lorry or bin van elsewhere. Technical names include waste collection vehicle and refuse collection vehicle. These trucks are a common sight in most urban areas.

Victor Ashe American politician

Victor Henderson Ashe II is the former United States Ambassador to Poland. From 1987 to 2003, he was mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee. Ashe is a Republican. Ambassador Ashe concluded his service as Ambassador to Poland on September 26, 2009.

Bill Haslam Governor of Tennessee

William Edward Haslam is an American businessman and politician who served as the 49th Governor of Tennessee from 2011 to 2019. He is a member of the Republican Party and was previously the mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Dempster Brothers, Inc. of Knoxville, Tennessee, was an industrial firm that made waste handling vehicles including the Dempster Dumpmaster and Dempster Dinosaur. The firm was originally established by George Roby Dempster with his brothers Thomas and John Dempster.

Dempster may refer to:

Fountain City, Knoxville human settlement in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States of America

Fountain City is a neighborhood in northern Knoxville, Tennessee, in the southeastern United States. Although not a census-designated place, the populations of the two ZIP codes that serve Fountain City— 37918 and 37912— were 36,815 and 18,695, respectively, as of the 2000 U.S. census. At the time of its annexation by the city of Knoxville in 1962, Fountain City was the largest unincorporated community in the United States.

Sequoyah Hills, Knoxville United States historic place

Sequoyah Hills is a neighborhood in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States. It is located off Kingston Pike between the city's downtown area and West Knoxville. Initially developed in the 1920s, Sequoyah Hills was one of Knoxville's first suburbs, and today is home to some of the city's most affluent residents. The neighborhood contains numerous notable examples of mid-20th century residential architecture, with houses designed by architects such as Charles I. Barber, Benjamin McMurry, and Francis Keally. Sequoyah Hills is named for the Cherokee scholar Sequoyah, inventor of the Cherokee alphabet.

Jim Haslam Pilot founder

James Arthur Haslam II is an American businessman and philanthropist, best known as the founder of Pilot Corporation, which operates a chain of convenience stores and travel centers throughout the United States and Canada, and is one of the largest privately owned companies in the United States. Haslam is also a prominent donor for the University of Tennessee, having provided tens of millions of dollars to the school over several decades. Haslam's son, Jimmy, is the current owner of the Cleveland Browns, and his other son, Bill, is the former Governor of Tennessee.

Dumpster type of mobile garbage bin

A dumpster is a type of movable waste container designed to be brought and taken away by a special collection vehicle, or to a bin that a specially designed garbage truck lifts, empties into its hopper, and lowers, on the spot. The word is a generic trademark of Dumpster, an American brand name for a specific design. Generic usage of skip or skip bin is common in the UK and Australia, as Dumpster is neither an established nor well known brand in those countries.

Cas Walker American politician

Orton Caswell "Cas" Walker, was a Tennessee businessman, politician, and personality on television and radio. Walker founded a successful chain of small grocery stores that grew to include several dozen stores scattered throughout the Knoxville, Tennessee vicinity as well as parts of Virginia and Kentucky. From 1941 through 1971, Walker served on the Knoxville city council where he became legendary for his uncompromising political stances and his vehement opposition to what he claimed was a corrupt elitism in the city's government. The Cas Walker Farm and Home Hour, a local variety show sponsored by Walker, ran in various radio and television formats between 1929 and 1983 and helped launch the careers of entertainer Dolly Parton and the Everly Brothers.

Old City Hall (Knoxville) United States historic place

Old City Hall is a complex of historic buildings located at 601 West Summit Hill Drive in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States. Originally constructed in 1848 as the Tennessee School for the Deaf and Dumb, the complex served as Knoxville's city hall from 1925 until 1980. The complex has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey. It currently houses Lincoln Memorial University's Duncan School of Law.

William Graham Swan was an American attorney and politician active primarily in East Tennessee during the mid-19th century. Swan served in the Confederate States Congress during the American Civil War, and served one term as mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee, from 1855 until late 1856. He also helped establish the town of East Knoxville, and served as its first mayor in the late 1850s. In 1854, Swan and his brother-in-law, Joseph Mabry, donated the initial land for the formation of Market Square in downtown Knoxville.

Old North Knoxville United States historic place

Old North Knoxville is a neighborhood in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States, located just north of the city's downtown area. Initially established as the town of North Knoxville in 1889, the area was a prominent suburb for Knoxville's upper middle and professional classes until the 1950s. After a period of decline, preservationists began restoring many of the neighborhood's houses in the 1980s. In 1992, over 400 houses and secondary structures in the neighborhood were added to the National Register of Historic Places as the Old North Knoxville Historic District.

David C. Chapman American soldier, politician and businessman

David Carpenter Chapman was an American soldier, politician, and business leader from Knoxville, Tennessee who led the effort to establish the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the 1920s and 1930s. Mount Chapman and Chapman Highway, are named in his honor.

Edward J. Sanford American businessman

Edward Jackson Sanford was an American manufacturing tycoon and financier, active primarily in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the late 19th century. As president or vice president of two banks and more than a half-dozen companies, Sanford helped finance Knoxville's post-Civil War industrial boom, and was involved in nearly every major industry operating in the city during this period. Companies he led during his career included Sanford, Chamberlain and Albers, Mechanics' National Bank, Knoxville Woolen Mills, and the Coal Creek Coal Mining and Manufacturing Company.

History of Knoxville, Tennessee

The History of Knoxville, Tennessee, began with the establishment of James White's Fort on the Trans-Appalachian frontier in 1786. The fort was chosen as the capital of the Southwest Territory in 1790, and the city, named for Secretary of War Henry Knox, was platted the following year. Knoxville became the first capital of the State of Tennessee in 1796, and grew steadily during the early 19th century as a way station for westward-bound migrants and as a commercial center for nearby mountain communities. The arrival of the railroad in the 1850s led to a boom in the city's population and commercial activity.

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Knoxville, Knox County, Tennessee, USA.

References

  1. George Roby Dempster at Find a Grave
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 East Tennessee Historical Society, Lucile Deaderick (ed.), Heart of the Valley: A History of Knoxville, Tennessee (Knoxville, Tenn.: East Tennessee Historical Society, 1976), pp. 519-521.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Bruce Wheeler, Knoxville, Tennessee: A Mountain City in the New South (Knoxville, Tenn.: University of Tennessee Press, 2005), pp. 73-82, 111-113, 122.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Jim Tumblin, "Fountain Citians Who Made a Difference George R. Dempster. 2002. Retrieved: 3 August 2010.
  5. Ann Bennett, National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Old North Knoxville Historic District, 9 August 1991.