Born in McDowell County, Luther Stroup has lived most of his life in Spruce Pine in Mitchell County, leaving only for the four years he spent at Carson Newman College earning a degree in English and religious studies. As a child, he spent time in his grandfather’s “Hobby Shop,” playing with tools and watching his grandfather make clocks. By the time he was in high school, he was helping to make grandfather and grandmother clocks with his grandfather, father, and brother. Even during his college years, he returned to Spruce Pine during the summers and holidays to work in the shop with his grandfather.
Luther was offered jobs in public relations after college, but he was drafted by the Army. “Because of sports injuries,” he says, “the Army wouldn’t take me, but neither would they let me go. So, I began working here in earnest. I enjoyed it so much that when the Army finally declared me 4-F in May of 1973, I just stayed at it.” He turned his grandfather’s hobby shop into a full-time business and has been working at it ever since. Luther and his grandfather made some furniture, but clocks were their specialty.
Luther’s grandfather, a retired minister, had moved to Spruce Pine and started the Hobby Shop to keep his hands busy. Before his call to the ministry, he had apprenticed with Charlotte Foundry and Machine Works. Years later, Luther believes, his grandfather was able to figure out how to make the clocks and design them himself. His grandfather lived to be 92 years old, and he worked until he was 90. Over the years, he made around 700 clocks.
Since then, Luther has made around 2,500 clocks. He says, “I use my grandfather’s patterns. I use his machinery. I basically make the clocks the same way he made them. I have changed a few things, but I could make the same clock he made in the 1950s. It really hasn’t changed.” Luther owns an art gallery where a few of his clocks are for sale, but most of the work he does is strictly by order. From start to finish, he can make a clock in about two weeks. When his father and brother were also working in the shop, they produced about 100 clocks per year.
Luther personally delivers almost every clock he makes. “I enjoy meeting the people that I deal with. I have set-up and delivered clocks in 48 states, Canada, and Mexico. I’ve delivered all that I have made with the exception of a few I shipped overseas. I’ve delivered in uptown penthouses in New York, and some of the most humble homes in Nevada. I’ve delivered in big cities and small towns.”
He has never presented at a show or fair to help sell his work, but he welcomes visitors to his shop where he has talked to several clubs and organizations about clock making.