This year brought a silent honor to a Greene County native, the late Carl Brandon, who helped shape Baileyton’s physical and business landscape, and who established a major community bank that today has branches across East Tennessee.
In April, state legislators officially declared that “... the segments of highway in the town of Baileyton ... beginning with State Route 172 at the southernmost intersection of such route with Boulder Loop, continuing through the current northern terminus of State Route 172 at Exit 36 of Interstate 81 as Van Hill Road, and ending at the intersection of Van Hill Road and Horton Highway, are hereby designated as the ‘Carl J. Brandon Memorial Highway …’”
The legislative action was taken, its text states, “to honor the memory and service of this prominent leader, successful businessman, and respected member of the greater Baileyton and Greeneville/Greene County communities.”
Along the referenced roadway stand several active businesses that might never have come to be had not Carl Brandon established Baileyton’s best-known landmark in 1976 along the then-new interstate highway.
In creating what was at first called the Davy Crockett Auto/Truck Stop and now is the TA Davy Crockett Travel Center, Carl Brandon made Baileyton a stopping point, from that time forward, for truckers and travelers along I-81. It also became a popular eatery for local diners as well.
It provided, and still provides, not only hot food for hungry truckers, but also fuel, restrooms and amenities including a well-stocked travel store catering to the needs of those on the move.
I’ve long been familiar with the name of Carl Brandon, and certainly have visited the truck stop he founded several times over the years, but I’m unsure whether I ever met him personally. Possibly I have, given that community, state and even national leaders frequently stopped by the paper in earlier days to see then-Publisher John M. Jones.
Though I don’t personally recall Carl Brandon, after a fun and conversational visit this week with his one of his sons, Jason, I came away feeling as if I know the man a little.
Jason, now president of Crockett Enterprises, Inc., encouraged me to write only about his father and leave him out of it (he wouldn’t even let me take his picture), but I am obliged to credit him here for the information and guidance he provided both in-person and with a followup email, and to thank him for the time he shared with me.
One aspect of his late father’s character that Jason emphasizes is the man’s loyalty – toward his family, his heritage (including the family farm at Lost Mountain, where he spent his life), his nation, his friends and employees, associates and community.
Jason is confident that the truck stop his father established was and still is doing good things for Baileyton. Without that high-visibility business there to attract travelers and truckers with its signage and good word-of-mouth reputation, Baileyton would be a different place, Jason feels sure.
Carl’s business history equipped him for creating a successful truck stop. More than a decade earlier, he and his brother-in-law, local attorney and future state and federal judge Thomas Hull, purchased the distributorship for Pure Oil products in Greene, Hawkins, Hancock and Grainger counties. This became the well-known Brandon & Hull Oil Company.
In the 1960s Carl had two Pure Oil Truck Stops in the Bean Station area. He developed the Davy Crockett Truck Stop because he saw commercial potential in the heavy traffic the interstate would bring near Baileyton, and knew a truck stop would provide jobs in northern Greene County, where he’d grown up.
Jason describes his father as “a bit of a pioneer on the truck stop side” in East Tennessee. In fact, he told me via email, “at that time Union 76 didn’t want him to build here because they thought it would conflict with Knoxville and Wytheville!”
That hesitation, Jason notes, “seems crazy today when there are multiple stops on many exits.”
Carl “was determined to build it” despite any perceived risks, trusting his own instincts. So build it he did.
How did that work out? Jason puts it this way: “It’s fed our family and thousands of employees for over 45 years.”
Carl handled the day-to-day operation of that oil company, this while also maintaining the old family farm at Lost Mountain and delving into other areas of business, especially banking. Carl served as a board member for C&C Bank and Production Credit, and founded Andrew Johnson Bank in 1979, serving as chairman of the bank’s board several years.
That was a lot for one man to do, but Jason says his father “loved farming but he loved the business world for 40-plus years as well.”
Jason believes his father’s strong work ethic probably received a boost because of a traumatic experience that occurred within his family when Carl was 16.
In June of 1953, Carl’s father, Earl “Pete” Brandon (who with the McNeese family founded the Farmers Livestock Market in Greeneville), was killed when lightning struck a barn where he happened to be during a major storm. That death abruptly thrust new responsibilities on the teenage boy, and he shouldered up to the task.
Carl’s sisters, Barbara Brandon Miller, Joan Brandon Hull and Cora Brandon Carter, were in school or already married at the time.
In his father’s absence, young Carl took care of Pete’s widow and the family farm.
That difficult time contributed to two other traits Jason says his father possessed: integrity (he was “honest to a fault”) and a willingness to do unrelentingly hard work. “All he ever did was work. He didn’t play golf or do things like that.”
Even when he became aged, ill and entered the hospital prior to his 2018 passing, Carl was “running 250 head of cattle,” Jason said.
The legislation creating the Carl Brandon Memorial Highway designation passed in April, but the signage went up recently. The Brandon family credits State Rep. David Hawk as being instrumental in bringing about the memorial, and also thanks Bob Grubbs for his ongoing help and legal assistance as attorney for Crockett Enterprises.
Carl’s children in addition to Jason are sons Jerome and Richard, and daughter Carla. There are several grandchildren.
The tall flagpole at the Davy Crockett Travel Center is dedicated in memory of the uncle for whom Carl J. Brandon was named, Corporal Carl Dana Brandon, killed in action in World War 1.