Emily Clarkson Thompson Eagar of Belmont, Mass., the last surviving child of former Chattanooga mayor, reformer and philanthropist T.C. Thompson, died at home Tuesday, July 6, 2021. She was 97.
Mrs. Eagar was born at home in Chattanooga in 1924; she never had a birth certificate, the source of much trouble later. Her parents were T.C. Thompson and the former Anna May Signaigo.
She is survived by three children, Harry Eagar Jr. (Tricia) of Sykesville, MD; Emily Maxwell (Richard, d.) of Gainesville, FL; and Thomas W. Eagar (Pam) of Belmont, MA. Also 12 grandchildren: Kachina Shaw (Daniel) of Louisville, KY; Hal Eagar (Rachel) of Queens, NY; Kathryn Launert of Sykesville, MD; Douglas Maxwell (Bess) of New York City, NY; and Leannis Crutchfield (Moss) of Gainesville, FL; Matthew Eagar (Jianna) of Belmont, MA; Rebekah Dunkley (Greg) of Boise, ID; Linda Simpson (Chuck) of Apex, NC; Karen Meeker (Jared) of Provo, UT; James Eagar (PJ) of Orem, UT; Anna Taylor (RIchard) of Salt Lake City, UT; Thomas Eagar (Ali) of Orem, UT; and 38 great grandchildren.
Mrs. Eagar was a graduate of the Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga and interrupted her education at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia to marry Harry Douglas Eagar of Chattanooga, a Navy officer and veteran of the war in the Pacific as soon as the fighting was over.
Her children were born in Chattanooga, and after they were grown, she returned to Chestnut Hill to complete a degree in psychology and later a master’s in education at Old Dominion University. Her husband supported her by taking classes with her.
She was a lifetime advocate of education for all. Her grandfather was a college English teacher and the first superintendent of public instruction in South Carolina; and she often cited her aunt, Katherine Signaigo, a public school principal in Chattanooga who during the Depression extorted clothing from business colleagues of her brother Edward, a Market Street haberdasher, so that poor children who were literally naked could go to school.
Mrs. Eagar taught at Catholic schools in Atlanta, GA, Raleigh, NC, and Norfolk, VA, primarily second grade but also junior high. After her retirement to Gainesville, FL, she volunteered teaching reading to adults who had been ill-served by the public schools.
Mrs. Eagar was one of the last living links to an Old South whose ethos she rejected while maintaining its social habits. She attended the first Cotton Ball (now Chattanooga Ball) in a hoop; but she had no use for the Daughters of the Confederacy, racism or the romantic lies about the Civil War. Her father, at age five, had been a refugee from Sherman’s attack on Columbia, S.C.
Her father was a renowned storyteller in Chattanooga, entertaining guests who drove in buggies to his summer home on the Brow on Signal Mountain on Sundays. Emily was proudest of the story that concerned the dedication of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium in 1922. T.C. Thompson, the ex-mayor, was master of ceremonies and he refused to let the event proceed until the black Gold Star mothers were invited down from the segregated gallery to be seated at the front with the white Gold Star mothers. Emily continued to fight racism throughout her lifetime.
Services in Belmont for Mrs. Eagar will be private, followed by a memorial Mass on July 16th at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Chattanooga, TN. She will be buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Chattanooga, next to her husband and a son, Jude, who died at birth.
Memorial gifts may be made to Edmundite Mission, 1428 Broad St., Selma, Ala.