1995 Laureates

John C. Paty

John C. Paty began his career as a builder in 1910 at the age of 11 when he built his first house, a chicken house. Since that time, the name Paty has become synonymous with building in this region.

John Paty was attracted to Elizabethton by the construction of a large rayon plant, American Bemberg Corp., but the road to success was full of ups and downs during the business cycle's of the 1920's and early 1930's. Starting with buying out his father's partner, he and his father operated R.M. Paty & Sons, a retail lumber yard and contracting business in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. He subsequently moved to Floridawith the real estate building booming there, but after two years was drawn back to Elizabethton and later established the Builders Supply Company. After each venture he was in debt, but his family was richer by one child. "I don't mean we went bankrupt, but I guess it would have been easier than working it out and paying everybody, but not as near as much satisfaction."

On December 6, 1932, amidst the coldest winter on recode, Paty Lumber Company was started "with a name, a borrowed $55, and the experience gained above." Today, with 600 employees and ten locations in Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina, The Paty Company has grown to be the largest independent lumber and building material supplier in Tennessee and in the top 75 firms in the country. In 1990 the company was named national Retailer of the Year by Building Supply Home Centers magazine.

Born in Bell Buckle in 1899, the sixth child in a family of five boys and four girls, Paty was a "skinny toe-headed boy with ears almost as large as my head, always using them to some advantage. But I will admit that sometimes I should have listened more and not done so much talking." He attended Webb School and the University of Tennessee, before serving in the U.S. Navy building early airplanes. He married Olive Bingham of Bell Buckle, and during their 45 years together, they were the parents of four children.

Paty maintained a lifetime interest in the Boy Scouts and established the olive B. Paty Memorial Chapel at the Sequoyah Council's Camp Davy Crockett. His long service was recognized by Scouting's highest honor, the Silver Beaver Award. He also served many years as a director of Carter County Bank and First Federal Savings & Loan Association of Johnson City.

"I am proud of these achievements. They have been done by team work, hard team work, but we have also had a time to play. It also makes me proud of you, from time to time, who come to me and tell me some other company has offered you a job. Guess you don't think I pay much attention to you at the time, but that's because, if you would notice, my chest is filling up with pride. Who would want a person whom someone else would not?"

Paty was a hard-driving, yet easy-natured man who commanded respect. He did not seek the limelight, but he would never shirk his responsibilities. While he did not finish school, he contributed financially to the education of all his brothers and sisters, among whom were college presidents, physicians and missionaries, nurses, and teachers. His life portrayed a legacy of service and dedication to others. Once when he was unable to satisfy a customer, he drove him to a competitor's business to save calling a taxi.

Those who knew him were all well aware of his innate sense of honor and his unfailing integrity. He was a man who practiced the Golden Rule and believed the Bible to be a wonderful business guide as well as a spiritual guide. John C. Paty was a man who practiced his beliefs whether in his personal life or business life. His guiding hand helped form The Paty Company into the success it is today.