Tue, Aug 06, 2024
CSI Board Meeting
Read More

"CAS" Clark A. Sweetser

I had the opportunity to interview CAS Sweetser the other day and had a delightful trip down memory lane. Some of you may have seen CAS at our awards banquet in June at the Foundry. He spends part of the year with his children here in Knoxville and part of the year in his RV touring the US, which he has done for many years with his late wife Lola. CAS was one of the charter members of the Knoxville Chapter and the served as our second President after Miller Euler. Here are some stories from his career in CSI and in the design and construction community
Kathy Proctor

"CAS" Clark A. Sweetser, charter member of the East Tennessee – Knoxville Chapter, graduated from Iowa State University, Ames, IA in 1943 where he studied Architectural Engineering. He joined AIA as a student, but a student CSI organization did not exist at this time. In 1947 he moved to Knoxville to work with TVA There he met Miller Euler who would have a profound effect just a few years later.

In 1950 he left TVA to venture out in the real world and took a job with the Knoxville architectural firm of Beeler and Wilhoit. A couple years later (at the suggestion of Wilhoit, that he needed to get more experience) he took a position with Biancolie, Palm and Purnell in Chattanooga. Mr. Bill Beeler had been recruited to Knoxville to work on the Hamilton Bank building and the US Post Office and soon joined forces with a Knoxville native, Fred Wilhoit to form Beeler & Wilhoit. After Fred Wilhoit passed away in 1953, CAS moved back to Knoxville and under Mr. Beeler’s tutoring began writing the specifications. Jim Morton, a Canadian architect, was recruited by Wilhoit to come to Knoxville due to his expertise in assembly spaces and theaters and to assist the firm with the design of the original UT Business Administration Building. Jim and CAS became friends as they worked together.

In 1953 Jim Morton and CAS decided to branch out and form their own firm, Morton & Sweetser. One project they designed was the Norwood School here in Knoxville. This building included a few firsts for our area; was the first 100% poured in place concrete roof; the first air-conditioned school and the first to run completely on electric power. The school board was amazed at the reduction in their insurance costs as a result of having a fireproof building. Other projects included a number of schools such as Austin East High School (first high school educational commercial kitchen) , the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum, and the Knoxville Safety Bldg.

I asked him how he got the name CAS. He said when working on drawings at TVA, you had to initial all revisions. (Clark A. Sweetser ) Felder Weeks, who also worked there, saw the initials and starting calling him CAS. The name stuck. Later he would meet Cas Walker, who served on the City Council during the construction of the Auditorium / Coliseum. CAS told me that Walker was a smart man, but “could put on being dumb better than anyone he knew!” Of course Walker always remembered the name.

In 1958 a number of Knoxville architects and engineers decided to join CSI at the national level to share expertise and address concerns with the specifications that were part of every project. CAS (Clark A. Sweetser ) Sweetser joined the organization in 1958 at which time we did not have a local chapter. About that time Miller Euler rallied the local membership and convinced them that we needed a CSI chapter in East Tennessee. In 1959 the chapter was chartered with 23 Active Members and 47 Associate Members. Euler became the first president of the chapter and CAS followed him in 1960. At this time a core of 20 people came to the meetings. The national convention was held in Atlanta during his presidency. CAS paid his own way as the chapter had little funding. There were only some 40 other CSI members from across the country that attended the national convention. Just 2 years later CAS would serve as AIA ETN President.

CAS told me that the chapter was always able to throw a great party. (I think that is a tradition that we have proudly embraced and taken forward) At one board meeting he recalled Tommy Thompson giving the treasurer’s report and then following it with, "I move we have a party." CAS would second the motion and it would happen. They pursued fundraising through auctions. The local architects and other construction personal would donate interesting stuff and them they would hold the auction to fill the coffers.

As the School of Architecture grew, the need for a building was realized and funded by the state. A national competition was organized and Morton and Sweetser were invited to participate. They joined with Hanford Yang, a visiting UT professor under Dean Don Hansen and NY architect, and ended up one of 6 finalists in the competition. Each finalist had to build a model for the UT Architect, Clayton Diegle in the last round. Their model was built in NY and shipped to Knoxville. Quite a challenge! McCarty, Bullock, Holsaple would win that competition and that building stands today on the UT campus.

In his later years CAS joined William F. (Bill) Martin at Roof Design Works where he provided his architectural expertise in roof consultation throughout their 6 offices. He retired in 1991, and began his tour of the US by RV motor home with his wife Lola. CAS would keep up with the chapter through his friends here in Knoxville and through the Speck when it began to be distributed electronically.