Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, June 10, 2016

Attorney lives up to McCallie name through practice, community service

Attorney Allen McCallie is a member of Miller & Martin, where he concentrates his practice on real estate, finance, exempt organizations, conservation law, and public and private nonprofit development ventures. - (Photo provided)

Allen McCallie knows about the weight a name can carry. As the grandson of Spencer McCallie, one of the co-founders of The McCallie School, he is part of a family with a rich legacy of community service and contribution in Chattanooga. Yet through his career as an attorney with Miller & Martin, Allen has borne the heaviness of his name and made an impact all his own.

Despite the deep roots and strong branches that make up his family tree, Allen compares his younger self to a piece of driftwood that floated on a bobbing current to a career in the law. After graduating from the University of Virginia (UVA) in 1977, he knew he wouldn’t be following in the footsteps of his father, David Park McCallie, MD, by starting a medical practice. “Medicine didn’t grab me, and I didn’t grab it,” he says, an amused smile creasing the corners of his bearded face. But as for what would take the place of medicine in his future, that was up in the air.

Allen considered real estate development, but found no open doors. “I thought about going to work for my uncle, Tommy Lupton, Jr., but he didn’t have any work for me,” he says. Lupton, the owner of Stone Fort Land Company, did encourage his nephew to continue searching for something that felt right.

A friend of Allen’s suggested law school, and the idea struck a chord in the young man, not because he wanted to become an attorney but because he thought a law degree would help him in whatever pursuit he chose. “Law school is good training for anything you might do, and it’s a great place to find out where your skills lie and what you’re comfortable doing,” Allen says.

Allen did as his friend suggested, partly to keep his options open, but also because he didn’t know what else to do. Then a chance encounter with a neighbor in Chattanooga, Joe Richardson, steered him onto the path on which he remains to this day.

“I ran into Joe while I was home for Christmas. He’d heard I was in law school, and suggested I work at Miller & Martin that summer,” Allen says. “So the die was cast. I felt like a piece of wood that had floated to law school and then drifted past my neighbor, who invited me to work at the firm.”

Allen did clerk for Miller & Martin - and he loved it, regardless of how he wound up there. When he graduated from UVA with his Juris Doctor in 1980, he returned to Chattanooga and went to work for the firm.

At the time, the city Allen called home was struggling to find its footing and its identity. But things were changing. And from his vantage point on the 10th floor of the Volunteer Building, Allen had a front row seat to the revitalization of Chattanooga.

Allen did more than watch, though; as a real estate and non-profit attorney, he had a hand in facilitating many of the commercial real estate projects and public-private ventures that contributed to the resurgence of downtown Chattanooga, including the Tennessee Aquarium and the Tennessee RiverPark.

“It’s fun to see how many of those investments, many of which were criticized at that time, and thought to be wasteful or speculative, are now woven into the fabric of why people live in Chattanooga,” he says.

Allen’s contributions to Chattanooga through his legal work also include helping to set up River City Company, working on CARTA’s free electric shuttle system, and acting as Tennessee counsel for the Trust for Public Land, among many other endeavors. But he hasn’t always taken the role of attorney when serving his community; in the giving spirit of his family, he’s often simply been a public servant contributing his time, enthusiasm, and expertise to a board, trust, or foundation.

Allen’s past and present civic and charitable memberships include the Chattanooga Advisory Counsel for the Trust for Public Land; the Southern Environmental Law Center’s board of directors; the Chattanooga Tumor Clinic’s board of directors; the Lyndhurst Foundation’s board of directors, for which he served as chair; the Tennessee River Gorge Trust; the Chattanooga Nature Center’s board of directors, for which he served as president; the McCallie School’s board of directors; and the Tonya Memorial Foundation’s board of directors.

Allen’s volunteer work has earned him a number of accolades, including The Trust for Public Land’s highest national honor for public service, the Douglas P. Ferguson Award, in 2012. He is also a Fellow of the Chattanooga Bar Foundation, for which he is chair.

But there is no greater reward for Allen than to see his hometown thrive. “It’s gratifying to see the world discovering the city we knew Chattanooga could be,” he says.

Allen’s lengthy record of community service didn’t come out of a sense of obligation to live up to the McCallie name, but out of his love for the place his family has called home since settling in Chattanooga in 1841. He’s called North Chattanooga home his entire life, and the 10th floor of the Volunteer Building has been his home-away-from-home since he began working for Miller & Martin. “My universe is small,” he says, smiling again.

Allen can even see where he lives from the office. He points at a pair of cell phone towers standing on top of a tree-covered ridge visible behind Unum. “If those towers fell, they’d fall into my backyard,” he says.

Allen’s universe might be small, but he likes to stretch its boundaries and explore its outer edges. Although joint pain has curtailed his open-air activities to a degree, Allen has always harbored a passion for hiking, bird hunting, fishing, and biking. “My passion for the outdoors and my joints are heading in different directions,” he says. “But I still like to get on my bike at my home, cross the Walnut Street Bridge, get on the RiverWalk, and cycle out to the dam.”

Allen also tends to an orchard on his property, although he says his only successes so far are the blueberries he’s coaxed out of their bushes. “I mostly grow fruit for the squirrels,” he says.

He also continues to cultivate the relationships that have encompassed his life. As one of four sons to Dr. McCallie and his mother, Maddin, he feels grateful that his parents survived well into his adult years. He did lose a brother, Frederick, to cancer at the age of 25, though, and to this day calls the event “life changing.” Allen and his wife, Alice, a former bank executive from Houston, Texas, have one a child, David, who just finished his first year of college.

Twice a year, all four surviving generations of McCallies - from a 100-year-old aunt down to Allen’s nephews and nieces - gather together to renew ties, first for an annual camping trip to the North Carolina mountains and then for Christmas dinner. It is during these occasions that Allen feels most blessed.

“I couldn’t have planned the life I’ve had,” he says. “It’s been incredible.”