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An Empire Divided:
Atlanta and Chattanooga family dynasties from the early days of Coca-Cola
Author William Parker
ISBN 978-1-947589-08-7
Publisher Waldenhouse Publishers, Inc.
Description 200 pages 11" x 8.5" case bound with jacket; 71 original watercolor paintings;
92 photographs; index of names and photographs; $45.00
Availability April 2019
Order from The Author or
Waldenhouse Publishers, Inc.
Detailed lives of the men who invented, created, bottled and marketed Coca-Cola and made their Atlanta and Chattanooga extended families immensely wealthy in the process of solving the “syrup-bottle problem.” Contains 71 original watercolor paintings by William Parker and 92 photographs.

Library of Congress Control Number:2019902553

HIS036120 History US State and Local – South

HIS036060 History US 20th Century

BUS077000 Corporate and Business History – General

BIO003000 Biography and Autobiography – Business

BIO006000 Biography and Autobiography Historical – General





What Readers are Saying

  • Billy Parker has done an excellent job of weaving the various threads of the families involved in the birth of Coca-Cola into a tapestry. He has done extensive research into the men who had the vision to make this company into one of America’s icons. The book is punctuated with
    his personal art work that adds a new colorful facet to the finished package ... a must have for anyone interested in the history of our area!
    ~ ~ Judy Rowland, local historian
  • Billy Parker’s charming Old South watercolors are the perfect complement to his illuminating tale of the Atlanta and Chattanooga Coke families. The book is much richer because he knew many of the characters and their descendants first-hand.
    ~ ~ John Wilson, historian and publisher of Chattanoogan.com
  • Author Billy Parker has completely captured the complicated relationships of the Chattaooga and Atlanta Coca-Cola families with great style and integrity.
    ~ ~ Sonya Young, aka The Purple Lady, educator, journalist, philanthropist


William Parker, newspaper publisher and artist, began working on this book in 1999 when he spent several months in the Robert W. Woodruff Library at Emory University in Atlanta. He also worked at the Atlanta History Center researching the Coca-Cola section. His first writings about Coca-Cola appeared as a monthly series in two of Chattanooga’s community papers. Parker was born and raised in the South. Although his immediate family lived in Chattanooga where he received his early education, much of his childhood was spent with his grandparents who operated a cotton plantation in South Georgia. He later wrote a book that included much of his memories in the cotton country.

He attended public grammar schools and graduated from McCallie School which at the time was a private military academy. He entered the University of Tennessee’s School of Journalism where he graduated with honors in 1960. During his senior year he wrote promotional columns for Life magazine. Following college graduation, he took a job as general assignment reporter for the Chattanooga Times, a holding of the New York Times. For a short time he was vice president of a local advertising firm and later became Director of Communications for the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association. In 1987, Parker founded the Mountain City Publishing Company which publishes community newspapers in the Chattanooga area.

He is active in community affairs and serves on the board of the Hunter Museum of American Art and the Forest Hills Cemetery. He has recently been named chairman of the newly created George Thomas Hunter Society, a function of the Hunter Museum of American Arts.
Parker is noted for his watercolors which have been featured in publication and have sold at galleries in Chattanooga, at the Swan House in Atlanta, and at the Gulf Coast in Florida. Parker’s family includes his wife, Margaret, a married daughter, and two grandchildren


Most folks are aware that the Coke drink itself is made of two parts; syrup being one part, and carbonated soda being the other. While Atlanta for more than a century has manufactured Coca-Cola syrup, Chattanooga has brought the syrup and soda together in bottles or cans, as it were, and distributed the product, first to the state, then to the nation, and now to the world.

The syrup part of the Coca-Cola Empire in Atlanta is known as the Coca-Cola Company not to be confused with Chattanooga’s various names known as the Coca-Cola Bottling Company or the Thomas Company or the Parent Bottler. The Chattanooga part of the empire purchased the syrup, mixed it with carbonation and distributed the product in bottles.

As a group, the Chattanooga bottlers created a nationwide distribution network that grew into almost 1,200 franchised companies in the United States. The relationship between the bottlers and the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta is familial, as one writer, Mark Pendergast, put it, “like kin,
they squabble constantly but never lose sight for long of their interdependence.”

Without Coke syrup, the bottlers would have little more Than a lot of empty bottles, and conversely, without Bottlers, the Coca-Cola Company would have little more than syrup and soda. There is an old saying that where there is a problem, there is also an opportunity.

Could it have been this syrup-bottle problem that caused Coca-Cola to become a reality? Truth is the world’s most celebrated soft drink came into being because there was a problem and for many other reasons. Some are secrets buried deep in Atlanta’s Westview Cemetery.

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