Harold Thies Spoden

Hal T. Spoden


Like his father before him, Hal T. Spoden grew up on his dad’s farm; learning the value of hard work and service. Hal completed his public school education in Fredonia, New York and served as president of both his junior and senior classes. He entered the University of Michigan’s civil engineering program, graduating in five years instead of the usual four as Hal took off one year to help his father following his mother’s early death. He excelled in his studies, however, and his ingenuity lead to advantageous opportunities and, eventually, his own firm.

His first position after graduation was with the American Bridge Co. in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, but soon he came to Knoxville to work for the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1941. He responded to President Roosevelt’s call to support the Allies overseas by joining the Pan American Airways-Africa, Ltd. effort to construct airstrips from Nigeria to Egypt. Beginning in the late summer of 1941, his time in Africa is well-documented in pictures and letters sent home to his parents and fiancée. Malaria and dysentery took a toll on Hal. Disppointed that he could not join the army overseas, he came home to Knoxville and married Muriel Millar Clark in December of 1942. His continued work with Pan Am took the couple to Canada and Alaska, as well.

Hal was honored by the Upper East Tennessee and Statewide Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers with the Distinguished Service Award and is the 1993 recipient of the Dan Barge Award. Hal was an active member of the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, serving a term as its president. He was on the board of the Ridgefields Country Club, and is a founding member of the Netherland Inn Association. In 2008, the Netherland Inn Association announced that its Bank Barn restoration would be named after Hal T. Spoden in honor of his many years of service. He was also given a key to the city. In 1999, Hal’s loving wife of 57 years, Mimi, passed away. In 2000, he married Bobbie Jo Morris and continued his professional work until his retirement in 2009. Hal passed away on November 8, 2011 in his 94th year.

When his work with Pan Am was completed, Hal worked at the Oakridge Atomic Energy Plant until called to serve by the Navy in California. Malaria was common enough, due to the war in the Pacific, that it was no longer an obstacle to his enlistment. At war’s end, he worked for a short time for a firm in Knoxville, then relocated with his wife and daughter to Kingsport, Tennessee; starting his own firm in 1956. H.T. Spoden & Assoc. specialized in structural engineering. In 1996, the firm expanded and became Spoden & Wilson, Consulting Engineers. Hal designed many significant structures in Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky. These included Dobyns-Bennett High School, much of Holston Valley Community Hospital, the Bristol Hospital, the original Ridgefields Bridge in Kingsport, the Tri-Cities International Airport, and a historic bridge at Virginia’s Monticello.  He also oversaw the planning and restoration of many historical sites; including the Netherland Inn in Kingsport, the Kingsport Greenbelt (in the Boatyard area), and the Sycamore Shoals State Historic Site in Elizabethton.

View a scrapbook of Hal's Africa letters and pictures.

An interview with Hal about the history of Kingsport:
Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4


Hal & Muriel's Wedding

Newlyweds visit Fredonia, NY