Coca-Cola Bottling Co.
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
When John T. Lupton first entered into the business of bottling Coca-Cola, he had no idea that the soft drink would change the face of our city. His decision to back Benjamin Thomas and Joseph Whitehead’s bright idea in 1899 forever changed the course of Chattanooga’s history.
Then working as a lawyer and executive with the Chattanooga Medicine Company (predecessor to Chattem), Lupton was well respected in the community for his business acumen. Along with the bottling enterprise, he served as president of the Stone Fort Land Company, oversaw the revitalization of the Thatcher Medicine Company, and completed construction of the Dixie Mercerizing Company – quite a bit for a man described as “[doing] good in a quiet and unobtrusive way” and “one of the most modest of men.”
As the Coke empire grew, Lupton became well-known in the community as a philanthropist. Among the many recipients of his generosity were First Presbyterian Church downtown, Baylor School, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga – the last two have buildings named in his honor.
Lupton’s son and grandson inherited his charitable spirit as well as his fortune. His son Cartter was responsible for forming what is today Chattanooga’s Lyndhurst Foundation. His grandson, Jack Lupton, sold the bottling enterprise in 1986 and is credited with using his fortune to spark our city’s revitalization.
To Read About More of Chattanooga’s Founding Fathers, click the following links: