Council Centennial, March 4, 2020

Justin “Jet” Potter

There are several people in the history of Council who are known, but completely unknown. In other words, you’ll recognize the name, but you don’t really know anything about them. One of the best examples of these people (and we’ll be looking at others) is Justin “Jet” Potter, the man for whom the Scout Center on Hillsboro Road is named.

Justin Potter was born January 9, 1898 in Smithville, Tennessee. He was the son of a banker and grew up in Nashville, attending the city’s public schools, specifically Hume-Fogg. He attended Vanderbilt University for two years before beginning work as a bank clerk at his father’s bank. When World War I erupted, he joined the service as a second lieutenant in the Air Corps, stationed out of Texas. Upon returning from the war he began working on building his fortune. He started his own coal firm–Nashville Coal Company–in 1920 and was so successful he retired at the of 40 in 1938 a millionaire.

But retirement didn’t take. He re-entered the coal business in 1939, re-taking control of his former company. He then sold the company in 1955. From there he was involved in a variety of business interests, including Farm and Ranch magazine, Commerce Union Bank, Chemical Securities Company, Cherokee Insurance Company, and Virginia-Carolina Chemical Company.

Potter was known as ‘bareknuckled businessman.’ He opposed high executive salaries, stock option plans, and committee operations. He took pride that none of his coal mines were ever organized as part of the United Mine Workers Union. He was anti-TVA and supported the campaigns of Joe McCarthy and Dwight Eisenhower.

Potter entered our story in approximately 1930, when he gave the Boy Scouts use of the Montgomery Bell property, also known as the Narrows of the Harpeth, for summer camp. Eventually, he sold the property to the Council. In the 1930s, he also set up Justin and Valere Potter Foundation (Valere was his wife, whom he married in 1920) which contributed to the Scouts for years and years. Indeed, the Potter was a fairly significant contributor to the 1959 Capital Development Campaign.

When Potter died in December 1961, his son in law David Wilson and daughter Anne took control of the family trust, along with Anne’s sister Mrs. Albert Menefee. They were the ones who made the contribution of $600,000 to the council in 1972 for the Jet Potter Service Center. The ground breaking for the building was May 29, 1975 and the dedication was November 7, 1976.

Potter

Justin “Jet” Potter, from obituary article, _Nashville Banner_, December 9, 1961

“Justin Potter Dies; Funeral Services Set Monday,” Nashville Banner, Dec. 9, 1961, pg1 & 2
“Justin Potter, Financier, Dies,” Nashville Tennessean, Dec. 10, 1961, pgs 1, 16A
“Ground Broken or New Potter Boy Scout Center,” Nashville Tennessean, May 30, 1975, pg. 27
“Boy Scout Center Dedication Today,” Nashville Tennessean, Nov. 7, 1976, pg. 18
Middle Tennessee Council, “Jet Potter Boy Scout Center Opens,” Jet Trails, Vol. 1, NO. 1: September 1976, pg. 1
Middle Tennessee Council, “Open house, Dedication to be Held,” Jet Trails, Vol. 1, NO. 2: November 1976, pg. 1

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