Today, I had the privilege of attending a luncheon of some six hundred people that gathered to honor the McCallie family of Chattanooga. This "History Makers Luncheon" was sponsored by the Chattanooga History Center, which is very close to being completed.
The McCallie family has deep roots in Chattanooga. In 1841, the merchant, Colonel Thomas McCallie, arrived at Ross's Landing at a time when the town was barely three years old. The colonel's son, Thomas Hooke McCallie, became a Presbyterian minister in town during the Civil War, remaining neutral throughout the conflict. After the Civil War, T.H.M. helped rebuild Chattanooga, moving to a farm on Missionary Ridge (later, the road to Missionary Ridge was named McCallie Avenue). McCallie's sons, Park and Spencer, founded McCallie School for boys, and his daughter Grace, established Girls Preparatory School (GPS). The story goes that Park and Spencer disregarded Grace's suggestion that women be allowed at McCallie School, and so she decided to start a separate institution for girls. A few of the notable alumni of these prestigious prep schools include Ted Turner, Jon Meacham, and religious scholar Marie Griffith (I should also add William Eerdmans Jr., who I met last summer in Grand Rapids, Michigan. See my previous post about meeting him here).
During the Civil Rights era, Dr. Spence McCallie was instrumental in convincing city leaders to integrate public schools and allow African Americans to join civic organizations. Spence also supported the election of John Franklin as the first black city commissioner. Another relative, Dr. David McCallie, helped to reorganize Erlanger Hospital as an independent entity in the 1970s. It would be difficult to find another family that has had a greater impact on the formation of Chattanooga since the city's inception.
I enjoyed the documentary video of the McCallie family produced by WTCI/PBS. Included in the video were interviews with Turner, Meacham, local politicians, and civic leaders. I am very excited about the new Chattanooga History Center, and hope that it will be as successful as the Tennessee Aquarium.