Republic Parking System | Republic Centre, LLC | Berry & Hunt | Jim Berry Company | Liberty Tower, LLC
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 Meghan O’Dea
The son of sharecroppers in Mississippi, James C. “Jim” Berry learned the importance of hard work at a young age. After high school he attended Draughon’s Business College in Memphis and got a job at the Allright Parking Company there. He quickly made a positive impression on his employers, who noted his ambition and business savvy. Soon, he was managing Allright Parking’s Chattanooga office. Here, Berry quickly made an impression of a different sort – convincing building owners to sell their properties so the buildings could be demolished for parking lots at what is now Unum.
In 1966, Berry put his parking industry experience behind a new venture: Air Terminal Parking. It was the height of the glamour of air travel, and growing airports needed reliably managed parking. From there, his enterprises grew to include a trio of parking companies that eventually consolidated as Republic Parking System. As his companies grew, he began buying property in Chattanooga once again, but this time it wasn’t to create new lots – it was to revitalize the Republic Centre and Liberty Tower that today define the Chattanooga skyline. Berry’s visible contributions to the city are so ubiquitous – from the revitalization of downtown real estate properties to the promotion of numerous projects through his work with River City Company – it’s sometimes easy to forget just how much he shaped Chattanooga.
“Dad was always able to find the ‘silver lining’ in every situation and obstacle, often against seemingly impossible odds,” says Jim’s son Marshall Berry, chief manager of JMB Construction, LLC. “He never hesitated to confront a new challenge head on, and was always able to do it with a little smile. His insistence upon reaching beyond mediocrity was contagious to everyone involved. I’ve often said that there’s a right way, a wrong way, and the Jim Berry way.”
To Read About More of Chattanooga’s Founding Fathers, click the following links: