The Swinger’s Tiki Palace began as a dream home idea of Billy Hull, a prominent strip club owner in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Located high atop Missionary Ridge, the house on Cliff Road overlooked the city. After two years of planning, architect Ed Ball set out to build the most fantastic house in Tennessee. Anticipation grew as the house took fourteen months to complete. The 5,600 square-foot home featured three bedrooms and 4.5 baths, a large indoor pool, and a helipad. In 1972, close to 10,000 people attended the open house.
Billy and Gloria Hull were married in 1951 while they were juniors in high school. During their senior year, Gloria Hull worked on the second shift at the Chattanooga Glass Company while attending school. After high school, Billy Hull worked at the Peerless Woolen Mills for a year or two before he enrolled in college at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Tennessee. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University in 1958 or 1959 and moved back to Rossville, Georgia, where he found employment at Muller Company, a foundry, as a sand lab technician. The Hulls welcomed their first child in 1958. Soon after, Gloria returned to work at Riviera Carpet Mill, where she continued to work until 1962 and the birth of their second child. Thereafter, she went to work at Concrete Forms.
In 1967, Billy Hull opened a two-room go-go club known as The Castaways Club and the Lion’s Den as a side business while still working at the foundry. He also worked from time to time at gymnasiums or spas. After six months or so of working multiple jobs, Hull quit the foundry and began devoting his full time to his new business venture. Gloria Hull began to work there in the evenings, eventually quitting her job and working at the club full time as the evening cashier. She filled the cigarette machines during the day as well as kept the club’s books.
At approximately 12:55 A.M. on May 1, 1973, Larry Parker, shot and killed Roland Hargis, a boyfriend of Gloria Hull, as he was leaving the Tradewinds Night Club in Chattanooga. Parker was a friend of Billy Hull and was hired by him along with Wayne Carter to carry out the assassination. A victim of his own lifestyle, the evidence proved to be overwhelming. Billy Hull was found guilty of murder-for-hire and sentenced to 20 years and one day in the State Penitentiary. Larry Parker was found guilty of manslaughter. Hull fought his conviction to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which affirmed it four years later. During the trial, Parker brought forth another unsuccessful murder-for-hire plot against implicating Billy on a second murder charge.
Billy Hull’s mother, who was alive at the time of the trial, was the daughter of Katie Holcomb, a bootlegger. She purchased and sold bootleg whiskey from her home. Billy Hull helped his grandmother in her bootleg business by burying whiskey in the yard at night and digging holes for her to place barrels and fill with whiskey that would be left there for a year to char. He would also watch at night for the incoming whiskey deliveries, and at times help her count money since it was only a cash business. At one point during his trial, Billy Hull told the court that he made a substantial amount of money from helping his grandmother with her whiskey bootlegging business. He claimed she gave him a lot of money and extravagant gifts to explain why his lifestyle did not add up to what he reported to the IRS that he was making. Hull also claimed that on his grandmother’s deathbed, she had the presence of mind to tell him where she had buried jars containing large amounts of money.
In the summer of 1976, a former Chattanooga police officer made allegations of corruption in the police department and city attorney’s office. One of those claims was that the assistant district attorney picked up alleged sex workers at Castaways and brought them to Billy Hull’s house. The officer making the allegations had worked at some point at Castaways Club. During Hull’s murder trial, allegedly the same cop had set up the victim, so Hull could get his mug shot to give to the hitman. A six-month investigation into the corruption allegations concluded in March 1977, and no merit was found in the claims. A report from the investigation said that people paid by Billy Hull were the source of many of the allegations in an effort to take down the sheriff. No charges were filed against Billy Hull since paying people to lie wasn’t against the law, and no one made the allegations in open court.
Hull was acquitted on an arson charge in 1977 when the star witness for the prosecution recanted his statement that Billy Hull had paid him to burn down a competing club several years prior. Another witness – who was also involved in the murder-for-hire plot Hull orchestrated – said Hull had talked to him about burning down the club. However, Hull’s lawyer attacked the additional witness’s credibility due to his extensive criminal record.
In April of 1979, 32-year-old James Corvin’s body was discovered in the trunk of a stolen car in the parking lot of a Chattanooga hospital. Corvin had been shot and the body had likely been in the car for several months. Sixteen years later, a Crime Stoppers program led to the arrest of James Steven Turner of Ringgold, GA. Turner was charged with Corvin’s murder. Years earlier, Corvin had been a defense witness in Billy Hull’s murder-for-hire trial.
Life after prison was not easy for Billy Hull. Charges of tax evasion of his nightclubs while being incarcerated led him to go bankrupt. It is unclear if Billy and Gloria ever divorced. Billy Hull passed away in 2008 from cancer. It is rumored several families may have moved in and out of the home over the years before it was vacated. The house was listed for sale in 2014. By 2015, the home had been severely vandalized and was in foreclosure. The property was condemned and seized by the City of Chattanooga for unpaid taxes. On September 7, 2017, the city demolished the Swinger’s Tiki Palace.
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