Hugh L. McClung
Copyright 2008 * All rights reserved
J.C. (Jim) Tumblin, OD, DOS
3604 Kesterwood Drive, East
Knoxville, Tennessee 37918-2557
Hugh L. McClung
Lawson McClung was born on June 2, 1858 in Russellville, Jefferson County, Tn.
He was the youngest of the two children of Hugh Lawson McClung Sr. (1810
-1891) and Anna Gillespie McClung. His
father had seven children by his first wife, Rachel Morgan McClung, before her
untimely death in 1842 at only 32 years of age.
Lawson Jr.’s distinguished ancestry derived from both his parents.
His father was a grandson of Gen. James White, Knoxville’s founder, and
his uncle was Sen. Hugh Lawson White who was a candidate for the Presidency in
1836. His mother, Anna Gillespie,
was the granddaughter of Gen. Landon Carter, son of John Carter, the Secretary
of State of the ill-fated State of Franklin.
James White, John Carter and Landon Carter were members of the first
Tennessee constitutional convention in 1796.
he was still an infant, the family moved to Knoxville.
Young Hugh’s primary education was by private tutors at home enabling
him to enter the University of Tennessee and graduate with a Bachelor of Arts
degree in 1877. His health was not
robust at this point in his life and his father encouraged him to spend a year
in Texas as a ranch hand. There he
rode horseback every day and often slept on the bare ground with his saddle for
a pillow at night.
outdoor life and exercise completely restored his health and he came back to
Knoxville to begin the study of law with his brother-in-law, Maj. T.S. Webb.
When he passed his examinations under Judge William B. Staley in 1879, he
joined the Webb-McClung law firm as a full partner.
They were later joined by a third partner, L.M.G. Baker.
senior partner found attorney McClung to be keenly analytical and soon entrusted
him with the preparation and trial of cases which he managed with the skill of a
veteran. Although confined mainly to
the civil courts, both circuit and chancery, the practice became extensive and
lucrative. McClung’s business
acumen and his investments in real estate and coal properties enabled him to
retire from the firm in 1908 a wealthy man.
had served a short term as a special judge on the state Supreme Court early in
his career. Although both of his partners were Democrats and active in politics,
Hugh McClung had never aspired to political office.
In spite of that, at the urging of his partners and his friends, he
accepted the position of Knox County Chancellor when he was appointed to the
office by Gov. Malcolm R. Patterson in 1909.
served with notable ability and strict impartiality.
Although his services on the bench were for a period of only 18 months,
they were months of unremitting labor. He
entered over 700 orders and decrees, many of them contested.
Of the 32 appeals taken from his judgments there were only four reversals
in the Supreme Court, a record that would challenge comparison with his
predecessors in that high office.
L. McClung Jr. was the third generation of his family who were intensely
interested in higher education. The
three generations served for a total of 126 years beginning in 1794 with his
grandfather, Col. Charles McClung, who was a charter member of the board of
trustees of Blount College, predecessor to the University of Tennessee. Upon
Charles McClung’s death in 1835, his son, Hugh Lawson McClung Sr., succeeded
to the board. When he died in 1891,
Judge Hugh L. McClung Jr. became a board member until his retirement in 1920.
He was also a trustee and chairman of the board of the East Tennessee Female Institute, president of the board of the Robert N. Strong Home and trustee of the Knoxville Public Library. For five years he was a director and president of the Holston Bank.
On December 15, 1892, Hugh L. McClung Jr. married Ella L. Gibbins (1870- 1951), daughter of William E. and Ellen (Henry) Gibbins. Her father was a Knoxville business and civic leader, an early partner in the W.W. Woodruff Hardware Co. and president of the YMCA during its period of expansion. The family resided in a stately home on Broadway near the entrance to Old Gray Cemetery.
and Ella McClung had one child, Ellen Lawson McClung, who married Thomas H.
Berry, a prominent local coal mine operator, and nephew of the famous Martha
McChesney Berry, founder of the North Georgia College named for her.
McClungs made frequent trips to Europe, often staying for months at various
points. Ella collected many
outstanding pieces of art during her travels, an interest she passed along to
family home was on Circle Park until 1922. The McClungs were inspired by the
marked resemblance of property they acquired on Black Oak Ridge to that of
Tuscany, a mountainous region in central Italy bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
Therefore, they partially modeled their home and gardens after an ancient
villa at Siena and named it Belcaro. Their
estate is the subject of a future article.
Judge wrote an interesting account of his around-the-world tour in the
“Knoxville News Sentinel” (Jul. 7,
1931), entitled, “Judge McClung Shares his Enjoyment of a World Tour.”
reported, “The Hamburg-American S.S. Resolute began her world cruise from New
York on Jan. 6, 1931, and returned on May 25 with her log book showing 32,000
miles. Adding 4000 miles for land
travel her passengers had covered about 36,000 miles.
started with 165 passengers and returned with about 200.
The voyagers came from many different countries, from the United States,
Canada, several Central American countries and several countries in Europe.
… A ballot was taken
of all passengers before their arrival in New York to determine the most
beautiful and impressive objects and places seen on the tour with these results:
Most fascinating: City- Hongkong (Honolulu was second); Country- Japan;
Edifice- Taj Mahal; Hotel- Royal Hawaiian in Honolulu; Island- Ceylon; Mountain-
Fujiyama in Japan; Museum- Cairo (by
a large majority); River- Nile; Street or Avenue- Cryptomaria in Nikko, Japan;
Temple or Shrine- Dome of the Rock (Mosque of Omar) in Jerusalem; View- From the
Upper Corniche Road on the French Riviera and Most beautiful ladies- Japan.”
he became seriously ill with pneumonia, Judge McClung entered St. Mary’s
Hospital in March 1936. His final
illness lasted more than a month and he passed away on April 25. Funeral
services were held at Belcaro with his pastor at Second Presbyterian Church,
Rev. Clifford E. Barbour, officiating. He
was first buried on the grounds of his home; but, upon his wife’s death in
1951, his body was moved to the family burial plot at Greenwood Cemetery.
Thomas and Ellen Berry joined Ella McClung at Belcaro and maintained the
Lawson McClung was distinguished in appearance and bearing, a man of culture and
refinement, well acquainted with geography and world events as a result of his
extensive travels and known for his unfailing courtesy.
Note: Thanks to the University of Tennessee Special Collections for the archival
photograph. Next month’s article will describe Belcaro’s architecture and
its gardens. Additional photographs
can be found on the following website: www.fountaincitytnhistory.info/)
D-McClungHughL (Belcaro) (4/29/08= 1219 words)