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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, February 24, 2017

Attorney serves clients, community with equal zeal




For a brief and not-so-shining moment, George Hixson was going to be an engineer. Then he realized he had an aptitude not for designing and building things but for creating structure.

At first, Hixson focused on numbers. After studying engineering for a year at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC), he switched his major to business when he realized he had a talent for accounting. Three years later, he graduated from UTC and began working at the Dalton branch of Decosimo.

Then someone planted an idea in Hixson’s head – and changed the course of his life – by asking him if he’d ever considered going to law school.

He hadn’t.

“My brother, Bo, was the attorney in the family, and I was the accountant,” Hixson says. “But I went back to my office and thought about it.”

When Hixson was done thinking, he starting preparing for the LSAT. The rest, he says, is history.

Law school did more than change the direction of Hixson’s career; it took him out of Chattanooga for the first time in his life.

Hixson grew up in North Chattanooga and emigrated all of two miles to UTC for college. But his ambition to be a lawyer took him to the distant land of Memphis, Tennessee, where he earned his Juris Doctor at Memphis Law School. During the summers after his first and second years, he returned home to clerk at the law firm of Caldwell, Heggie & Helton.

After his second year, the firm told Hixson a job would be waiting for him after he graduated.

Unfortunately, when Hixson was ready to begin working, the country had sunk into recession and law firms everywhere were feeling the pinch. As the last associate hired at Caldwell Heggie, Hixson was the first one to be let go.

Hixson says he’s grateful to this day for how the firm handled his release. “They gave me five months on the clock to look for work using their letterhead,” he says. “That was very gracious of them.”

Although the landscape looked bleak, Hixson pressed forward. His efforts paid off when he received not one – but two – job offers: one from the trust department at First Tennessee Bank and another from a small law firm in Franklin, Tennessee.

After consulting with his family, Hixson accepted the position in Franklin. “I was interested in working at First Tennessee Bank, but we decided I needed legal experience,” he says.

Unfortunately, the Franklin firm was not a good fit for Hixson. Fortunately, he didn’t have to work there long because his big break in the legal profession came before his seat was even warm.

“Bo was at Shoemaker Thompson, which was doing real estate work for CBL,” Hixson says. “CBL was going public and needed hands, hands, hands on the IPO, so I joined the team.”

In time, Shoemaker Thompson made Hixson’s position permanent. Thirteen years later, the firm, which had become Shumacker Witt Gaither & Whitaker, made him a partner.

In a bold move in 2008, Hixson left Shumacker to become in-house counsel for Hutton, a Chattanooga-based real estate, development and construction company. It was also a well-timed move, as the real estate bubble burst soon after Hixson went to work for the company.

Instead of splashing about because of the downturn in real estate, Hutton, which had carved out a niche of building stores for Family Dollar, O’Reilly Auto Parts, AutoZone and Tractor Supply Co., thrived.

“Hutton ramped up its development schedule during the recession, and for eight years, I felt like the busiest real estate lawyer in town,” he says.

In 2013, Hixson left Hutton on good terms to return to private practice. His new home: what today is called Duncan, Hatcher, Holland & Fleenor.

Hixson says the work he has done throughout his years as a real estate attorney has suited him well. As a business-minded person, he likes creating and maintaining structure. He also enjoys fixing problems.

“When a client is overwhelmed or is working on a business deal they want to close as soon as possible, my first thought is to take care of their needs in the most efficient manner possible,” Hixson says. “I enjoy taking matters out of their hands and then giving them a finished product.”

Being in private practice again has given Hixson the opportunity to work in an area of the law that has always appealed to him: wills, trusts and probate administration. His desire to resolve matters for his clients has carried over to this aspect of his practice as well.

“Some of my favorite clients are the people who are trying to carry out the wishes of their loved one as they grieve but don’t know how,” Hixson says. “I take great satisfaction in seeing the look of relief on their faces as they hand that over to me and I begin to expedite the process.”

The aspect of Hixson’s character that is partial to helping others can also be seen in his service to his community and profession.

Hixson has served in various capacities at St. Elmo United Methodist Church and is a former board member of the Chattanooga Area Food Bank and Chattanooga CARES. In addition, he joined the Board of Governors of the Chattanooga Bar Association (the Bar) in January.

At 54, Hixson is far from ready to slow down. Not only is he expanding his practice and taking on new volunteer work at the Bar, he’s as active as ever during his off hours.

One of Hixson’s favorite things to do is travel – and he’s done a lot of it. In addition to visiting the United Kingdom, Italy and Canada, he’s traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and Central and South America. What’s more, he’s scheduled a trip to Las Vegas in March. That will bring him close to where he hopes to someday take his dream vacation.

“I hope to someday rent an RV and spend a month visiting different places out West,” he says. “I’d love to see the monuments and national parks.”

Hixson loves an assortment of other endeavors including reading, going to the movies, listening to music and spending time outdoors.

Although Hixson reads fiction to take his mind off work, he has a weakness for John Grisham novels, which one might think would hinder his ability to relax. However, since he is a transactional attorney, the legal thrillers fit the bill.

The horror movies Hixson confesses to liking do seem to contradict his button-down nature, although his taste in film is broader than that. Recent favorites include “Loving” and “Hidden Figures,” both of which deal with racial prejudice and injustice in American in the 1950s and 60s.

Hixson likes an eclectic variety of music as well. From classical, rock, pop and country to the hymns he grew up singing in church, there’s little that doesn’t appeal to his ear.

Hixson’s love of music even extends to performing. On the list of little known facts about him are his stints with the Chattanooga Singers and the Singing Mocs while he attended UTC.

When Hixon is able to get outdoors, he enjoys hiking and getting on – or in – the water. The aforementioned list of little known facts about Hixson also includes his days on the swim team at Baylor School.

Hixon’s greatest passions, however, are home and family. He still lives in North Chattanooga, within walking distance of the home in which he was born, and sees his parents, brother and sister regularly.

“We get together a lot,” he says. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

Hixson can’t see himself working elsewhere, either. He speaks highly of his fellow attorneys, including Paul Hatcher, who also owns Hatcher Title & Escrow. “Our practices complement each other well,” he says. “The longer I’m here, the more I feel like I’m in the right place.”

Hixson might have set out to become an engineer, but that endeavor was a mere blip on his radar. Instead, after allowing a random suggestion take root in his mind, he found a career that suits his personality, allows him to serve others and gives him personal satisfaction.

“I have been blessed through my life and career,” he says. “I want to continue giving back by helping my clients achieve their goals and always striving to be a community-minded citizen.”