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Robert Sparks Walker papers

Identifier: MS-081

Scope and Contents

This collection includes correspondence, financial records, scrapbooks, and other personal papers as well as manuscripts and drafts of books, articles, and poetry authored by Robert Sparks Walker, a Chattanooga naturalist, writer, poet, and local historian dating from 1896 to 1962. Highlights of this collection include the manuscript and dummies for Walker's Pulitzer Prize nominated book, Torchlights to the Cherokees: The Brainerd Mission.


  • Creation: 1896-1962


Language of Materials

This collection contains materials in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright status of this collection has not been evaluated.

Biographical / Historical

Robert Sparks Walker, a naturalist, author, poet, local historian, horticulturalist, and editor, was born on 1878 February 4 in a log cabin in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A prolific author, he penned many books, including State Flowers and State Birds: Being an Authentic Record of the Official Flowers and Birds of All the States in America, Lookout: The Story of a Mountain, and Torchlights to the Cherokees: The Brainerd Mission, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Letters, Drama & Music in 1931. In addition to books, Walker authored journal and magazine articles, poems, and newspaper columns, which have appeared in more that 600 publications, including the New York Times and Nature Magazine. Most of his writing focuses on natural history, botany, and horticulture. For more than twenty-five years, Walker wrote a nature column for the Sunday edition of the Chattanooga Daily Times. The publication records, draft poetry, manuscripts, scrapbooks, and newspaper clippings in the collection document his literary contributions.

In 1944, Walker helped found a local Audubon Society which was originally named in his honor, but was later changed to the Chattanooga Audubon Society at his request. He was also president of the Tennessee State Horticultural Society, a life member of the Tennessee Academy of Science, and involved in the preservation of other Chattanooga landmarks, such as Maclellan Island, which became wildlife sanctuary under the protection of the Chattanooga Audubon Society. Walker devoted a much of his life to the development of the Elise Chapin Wildlife Sanctuary, home to Spring Frog Cabin, where he was born. The cabin is also the birthplace of the Cherokee naturalist Spring Frog in 1754, and was one of Walker's favorite places. For years he spent nearly every day there, regardless of the weather. Mr. Walker died on 1960 September 26 after suffering a heart attack while walking in the Elise Chapin Wildlife Sanctuary. He is buried next to Spring Frog Cabin in Audubon Acres. Walker's diaries document local efforts to preserve and understand Chattanooga's natural environment.

Chattanooga Audubon Society. “Audubon Acres: Elise Chapin Wildlife Sanctuary.” Accessed April 3, 2020.

Clark, Alexandra Walker. Chattanooga’s Robert Sparks Walker : the Unconventional Life of an East Tennessee Naturalist Charleston, SC: Natural History Press, 2013.

Gaston, Kay Baker. “Gaston: The Spring Frog Cabin at Audubon Acres.” Times Free Press. January 7, 2018.


50.04 Linear Feet (106 containers)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was donated by David Gray to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on 1988 July 18.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital reproductions of the collection are available electronically at

Processing Information

Processing of this collection is complete.

Robert Sparks Walker papers
Under Revision
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Collection Area Details

Part of the Manuscripts Collection Area

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Library
c/o Special Collections
600 Douglas Street
Chattanooga Tennessee 37403 United States