Charles Abner Lyerly



For Years One of Chattanooga ’s Leading Citizens.




Important Factor in Upbuilding of Community – Funeral Services Will Be Held Wednesday Morning.


            Capt. Charles A. Lyerly, aged 78, one of Chattanooga ’s leading financiers and pioneer citizens, died at 4 o’clock Sunday morning at the home of his granddaughter, Mrs. Gloria Lamb Greene, on Missionary ridge . Capt. Lyerly had been in failing health for about three years, but refused to retire from business, having appeared at the First National Bank, of which he was president, a week ago. He took sudden turns for the worse Saturday, going into a state of coma from which he never revived.

            All members of the immediate family in the city were at the bedside when he passed away.

            Capt. Lyerly is survived by two daughters, Mrs. Z. C. Patten, Jr., Mrs Irene Lamb; two sons, Maj. Ballard Lyerly and Charles A. Lyerly, Jr.; four grandchildren, Lowery H. Lamb, Jr., Walter E. Lamb, Mrs. Gloria Lamb Greene, Miss Dorothy Patten; a brother, Lonzo Lyerly, Meridian , Miss. , and a sister, Mrs. William Price, Gulfport , Miss. Capt. Lyerly’s wife, who was Miss Jennie H. Drane, died several years ago.

            Funeral services will be held Wednesday morning, the arrangements for which will be announced later. Z. C. Patten, Jr., who was in Maine , was reached by wire yesterday and will arrive in the city Tuesday night.

            Capt. Lyerly had been a leader in the financial business and civic affairs since his arrival here thirty-eight years ago. Besides being president of the First National bank, he was president of the First Trust Savings bank, treasurer of O. B. Andrews company, vice-president of Summerville Cotton mills, vice president of the Southeastern Express company, president of the First National bank at Fort Payne, Ala., director of the Alabama Great Southern railroad, director of the Tennessee Power company, and had many other business interests.

            At an early age Capt. Lyerly entered in the Confederate army and served with distinction. He was a member of N. B. Forrest camp. When the government organized the reserve bank system he was appointed a member of the advisory council and served with great ability. He also served several terms as president of the chamber of commerce.

            Capt. Lyerly always took lively interest in political affairs and served several terms as president of the board of councilmen during the old bicameral government system in Chattanooga . He was a staunch supporter of W. G. McAdoo for president in the last campaign and aided materially in capturing the Tennessee delegation for his candidate.

            Capt. Lyerly was a member of the Mountain City club, as well as many other social and business organizations. He and his family were communicants of the Episcopal church.

Sketch of Career of Capt. Lyerly.

            Charles Abner Lyerly was born in Enterprise , Clark county, Mississippi , on March 29, 1847. He was educated in the common schools of his native place, but at the age of 15 was obliged to leave school and seek work to help out on the family finances. He secured a place as clerk in a mercantile store, where he remained until he was 20. At that time, having saved a small sum of money, he started in business for himself, and until 1860 was a merchant in Enterprise . He was successful, but desiring a larger yield, he went to New Orleans and went into partnership with the late John P. Richardson in the wholesale dry goods business. He remained in this business until 1884, when he removed to Jackson , Miss. , and there organized the First National bank of Jackson . At the time he was interested in a cotton compress in that city. He was vice-president of the bank for six years, resigning at the end of this time to come to Chattanooga . He came to this city, which was destined to be his future home, in January, 1887, and organized the Chattanooga National bank, and for eighteen years was its president, it then being merged with the First National bank, and its affairs were liquidated. He was elected president of the First National bank, succeeding the late T. G. Montague, and served in this capacity until the time of his death. IN addition to his financial interests, Capt. Lyerly had found time to devote to agriculture and was the owner of one of the largest fruit farms in Georgia , upon which he grew peaches and apples of a fine quality.

Was a Lover of Fellowman.

            While Capt. Lyerly might well have been regarded as a typical, in many respects, an ideal banker, he was never all banker. Many persons would have readily and properly accorded him the honor of being dean of the banking vocation in Chattanooga , and there were abundant reasons for so considering him. But he was much more and other to the community than its leading banker and a chief captain of industry. He was essentially a sentimentalist. Not in the least given to proclaiming it from the house tops, like Abou Ben Adhem, he loved his fellow men.

            Herbert Spencer speaks of a great man, the secret of whose greatness was that when he entered his oratory he closed his laboratory, and when he entered his laboratory, he closed his oratory. It was thus in large measure that Capt. Lyerly for more than thirty-two years held front rank in Chattanooga business life; Chattanooga upbuilding; civic welfare promotion, and was yet accounted a sincere friend of the entire people. When he entered the bank, he was every inch a banker; when he left the bank he became in broad sense a public-spirited citizen, neighbor, friend, well-wisher to all mankind.

            As a neighbor, friend and well-wisher, he did not content himself with the passive qualities and conduct which may entitle him to be so ranked in a way, but he assumed the positive relation and became a wise counselor to his home people and to a much wider circle. It will be recalled that not infrequently he took time to make kindly suggestions about practical, every-day affairs, and his counsels were wise and sympathetic in marked measure. Not long since, he made public, upon his own volition, a bit of pertinent advice which somewhat surprised many of his friends and business acquaintances, no doubt, but after taking a long breath in contemplation of it, the consensus was, “Capt. Lyerly is just right about it, but it certainly took courage for a man in his position to come out and say those things.”

            His suggestion was that the people ought to be given respite from the too frequently occurring “drives” of that period. What he said must have proven a considerable stimulus to the community chest movement.

            When admonition seemed to him requisite in either public or private affairs, he did not hesitate to admonish, and he knew quite well how to do so trenchantly, if needs were. It required no deep learning in human character, nor special study in physiognomy as its insignia, to render perfect assurance that there were other elements than placidity and urbanity in his mental and spiritual organism. Those eyes of his, betimes sparkling with fun and good humor, always with intelligent appreciation of what was going on about him, were quite capable of dashing warning that what is often described by the term, “foolishness,” was not in order and would be distinctly dangerous. If vigorous protest or scathing denunciation became the appropriate order, he was fully equipped for the emergency, and if fight seemed inevitable, he was not at all incapable of meeting the inevitable efficiently.

Generosity One of Leading Traits.

            Generosity was a trait of his character which appeared to be second nature, but he never assumed the offensive role of professional benevolence. “Philandering philanthropy” was entirely foreign to his nature. His left hand was not kept unduly advised as to the doings of his right hand. Years ago, a man who had seemed prosperous and lived after the manner of prosperous men, died, and, as friends soon learned, left his family in circumstances of immediate embarrassment. Hugh Whiteside and another undertook by hurried canvass among friends to bridge over the immediate emergency for them. When Capt. Lyerly was approached, he, without comment, contributed a sum considerably in excess of what was expected. The suggestion was made to him that less would be regarded as entirely reasonable, but he ignored the suggestion, simply remarking: “I know the family, and am not surprised. I’m glad you gave me the opportunity.”

            Conservatism is a quality always associated in the popular mind with the efficient banker and the banking business, but as men are more and more appreciating these days, there is sometimes an excess of conservatism which proves a heavy handicap to legitimate business and prevents or retards community growth. It has acquired in America a characterization much more expressive than elegant, and that is “mossback” for the person who practices the method. While Capt. Lyerly was sufficiently conservative to be a safe banker, he was entirely free from the sluggish tendencies indicated by that term. Almost immediately on coming to Chattanooga he engaged in the banking business, and became president of a leading bank, the Chattanooga National, organized March 13, 1887 . He at once became interested in business affairs and, what might be properly termed ventures, not associated with banking, and in-so-far as general knowledge of his ventures extends, he was uniformly successful. This was not because he was what men call a lucky man; It was because he possessed excellent judgment and exercised it while giving sufficient play to a naturally enterprising, ambitious business spirit. One of his earliest investments of importance was part purchase of the old Winchester block, northeast corner of Seventh and Market, upon which the Richardson building was subsequently erected. He participated freely in boom activities. He was a leading promoter of the electric street railway system. In his banking operation some of the more notable enterprises have been: Acquisition of the Third National by the Chattanooga National; consolidation of the Chattanooga National and First National; establishment of the Avenue Band & Trust company; promotion of and participation in establishment of the First State Bank and Trust company, of which he was first president.

            Pausing for a moment to recall a few men of earlier days who were most intimately associated with banking in Chattanooga and whose names no longer appear upon the roll, among those that most readily suggest themselves are: John King, Tom Crutchfield, Allen C. Burns, in one group; and in another, W. P. Rathburn, T. G. Montague, John W. Faxon. Then Lyerly – third president of the oldest banking institution in Chattanooga , the First National, established in 1865.

            William P. Rathburn, Theodore G. Montague, Charles A. Lyerly – a triumvirate who will stand out in bold relief  before students of Chattanooga history for many years to come.

‘The Daily Times,” Chattanooga , Tennessee , Monday, August 10, 1925 .



Submitted by Dennis C. Wilson