American National Bank & Trust Co. (Now Suntrust Bank)
The businesses that employ members of your family. The scenic spots where you bring your out of town relatives. The route you ride your bike on Saturdays. The hospital that helped your kids get well. What these aspects of our daily lives have in common is that they were all made possible by people who founded not only some of Chattanooga’s most enduring businesses, but a large part of the makeup of our city as we know it today.
The men and women featured here didn’t just create profitable, lasting companies and institutions. They shaped the history, infrastructure, and culture of our city, overcoming challenges such as the Great Depression, personal illness, and shifting economies, to make a positive impact on the lives around them. They might not have known in the early years and the lean years if their businesses would survive, much less change the fate of the little boom town on the river. But by daring to start new business ventures, creating charitable organizations, opening tourist attractions, preserving land, and building iconic buildings, they became not just a part of Chattanooga’s history, but integral to its future.
By Megan O’Dea
The descendant of Dutch immigrants, Harry S. Probasco moved to Chattanooga from a little river town in Ohio in part to avoid heavy flooding. It’s perhaps no surprise then that he wanted to create a solid business, one that could stand the test of time and natural disaster. He succeeded admirably with the Bank of Chattanooga in 1900, which became the American National Bank in 1905. He was also majorly involved in the building of First Presbyterian Church and the Mountain City Club downtown as building committee chairman.
Eventually, the American National Bank grew into the American National Bank & Trust Co. under Harry’s son, Scott Livingston Probasco Sr. His son, Scott Probasco Jr., recounts how the trust venture started. “My grandfather and my dad were over in Germany enjoying a drink in a beer garden – my dad was barely 21 then – when my dad said, ‘Papa, I’d like to start a trust company.’ At that time, there wasn’t any such thing in Chattanooga. So he said, ‘Well, that’s a good idea. I’ll join you.’ And they got E.Y. Chapin Sr. to join and made him the president. That was 1912.”
Scott Probasco Jr. earned a degree in history from Dartmouth College and attended the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania before carrying on
his father’s business. Today, he continues to be highly active in the community, serving on a number of boards including the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, United Way of Greater Chattanooga, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is also a noted philanthropist who has made gifts to Baylor School, Bethel Bible Village, Covenant College, the University of Chattanooga at Tennessee, and many christian organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
“The banking and trust business is such an integral part of a community, and you inevitably become involved in things that are about making your city a better place to live,” says Scott Probasco Jr. “I was swept along in a real love for my community, and I think that’s inherited from both my grandfather and my father. I’ve always loved the old saying, ‘You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.’”
To Read About More of Chattanooga’s Founding Fathers, click the following links: