Frank Mathis Baisden Jr.
CPL in 603rd Engineer Camouflage Bn : Co D
Born 1904 in GA, Died 1998
County of residence at enlistment: Hamilton County, TN
Other residence(s): Covington, KY; Chattanooga, TN; Mexico City; Roseland, FL
United States Army, did not accompany the unit to Europe
Occupation before the war: teachers (secondary school) and principals
College education before the war: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 4 years
A perfect GA candidate--fluent in French and an artist and art teacher and an experienced designer and builder.
Frank was born in Atlanta, Georgia on June 17, 1904.
He attended public school in Chattanooga, TN (where his family moved from Covington KY sometime in the 1910s) and graduated from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.
Prior to his senior year (about 1925), he won a scholarship from the university which permitted him to travel and study in France, Italy, and England for four months.
He returned to Chattanooga in 1928 to become head of the brand new art department at the University of Chattanooga (now the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga). A 1929 Chattanooga newspaper article says that he "has done special commissions in New York City and many of his paintings and murals are now housed in the collection of the fellowships of the Pennsylvania Academy and in private collections throughout the east where he is recognized as one of the outstanding members of the younger American artists and where his work has won the approval and praise of the eastern art critics."
When he returned to Tennessee, he began building a summer home and studio on Lookout Mountain, near the town of New Salem, above Rising Fawn, Georgia. (This location is about 35 miles from Chattanooga.) He had found the bluff where he wanted to build a home when "mountain wandering" at the age of 16. He built the first room with mountain stone, cement, and spare time. It took him a whole summer to get the chimney constructed.
He spent the 1931-32 school year in Europe, bicycling around France, studying art and architecture, and making art. He also visited Turkey, Egypt, and Spain on this trip, and his sketches from the trip were shown in a special exhibit at the University after his return in 1932. In an article referenced below, he describes how he learned French slang to complement his classical French.
In the summer of 1934, he established a school for artists at his cabin/studio on Lookout Mountain. He also began teaching folk crafts to mountain residents. The following quotes are from the 1934 article referenced below.
"All of the natives know and love Frank Baisden for he has gone into their homes and sat around in the evenings and talked with them about building looms, furniture, and weaving things for their home and the commercial market. . . . Homemade looms began to make an appearance in their homes and the men obtained from [Baisden] a promise to later establish a school in furniture building. . . . [A woman resident] told how the Chattanooga artist sat by her side for hours and helped her to work out on the loom some of the patterns that he had drawn."
The article also describes a young mountain man who needed to have his tonsils removed but there was no money. Frank got a friend to have her family doctor perform the operation, and she paid the doctor in milk from her dairy farm. Then he agreed to give art lessons to the generous dairy farmer to compensate her for the milk, and the recovered tonsillitis victim then worked at the studio to compensate Frank for the art lessons!
As an artist, Frank worked in gouache, oil, watercolor, silk screen prints, and wax gravures, among other techniques.
His draft card from February, 1942 lists him as 5'4", 125 pounds, with a mustache. He enlisted on August 27, 1942. He was stationed at Fort Meade, MD when his father died in January, 1943.
In October, 1945 he married a woman named Katherine "Kay" Rolin. They had first met when he was in art school in Philadelphia, and they remet in Tennessee after she'd joined the WAC (Women's Army Corps) and before he went overseas.
Kay was a unique woman—a hockey player, a cricket player, a horsewoman who rode to hounds, a puppeteer, a Junior Leaguer, an actress and stage manager in the US and England, a member of the WAC, and a writer.
After Frank and Kay married, they spent the next eight years dividing their time between Roseland, Florida, where they ran an orange orchard, and Mexico City, where they attended classes at Mexico City College. While in Mexico, they lived for part of the time with Sara Pérez de Madero, widow of a president of Mexico who had been assassinated in 1913.
In 1953 they began to return to Lookout Mountain for the summer season, but continued to winter in Roseland.
He died on September 19, 1998 and is buried on Lookout Mountain.
1922 (high school)
Newspaper article, 1929, about Frank and the U. of C. art program (includes photo)
Newspaper article, 1931, his trip to France; describes the months he spent biking from town to town, painting, and sightseeing
Newspaper article, 1934, about his cabin/studio/school on Lookout Mountain (includes photos)
Newspaper article, 1942, about his joining Army
1942 enlistment record
1945 wedding announcement
1952 article - he wins Mexico art competition (mentions his army experience which is missing from most of the rest of the articles I found about him)
Newspaper article, 1953; discusses his biography and work
1961 article about his wife Kay which includes info re Frank as well
1998 obituary (clip attached; confirms that he was in ETO)
2011 blog post by a woman who knew Frank and his wife, Kay
2018 web post about two of his sketches with biographical information
2018 web article about Frank and his history
Hunter Museum - artworks of Frank Baisden