Founding Fathers: Thomas Maclellan

Provident Life and Accident Insurance Company (Now Unum)

The businesses that employ members of your family. The scenic spots where you bring your out of town relatives. The route you ride your bike on Saturdays. The hospital that helped your kids get well. What these aspects of our daily lives have in common is that they were all made possible by people who founded not only some of Chattanooga’s most enduring businesses, but a large part of the makeup of our city as we know it today.

The men and women featured here didn’t just create profitable, lasting companies and institutions. They shaped the history, infrastructure, and culture of our city, overcoming challenges such as the Great Depression, personal illness, and shifting economies, to make a positive impact on the lives around them. They might not have known in the early years and the lean years if their businesses would survive, much less change the fate of the little boom town on the river. But by daring to start new business ventures, creating charitable organizations, opening tourist attractions, preserving land, and building iconic buildings, they became not just a part of Chattanooga’s history, but integral to its future.

By Meghan O’Dea

Thomas-Maclellan--00002290Cities are built by families who start institutions and pass values down to subsequent generations – and few have done it better than the Maclellan family.

It all started in 1892 when Thomas Maclellan, then age 55, joined his business partner John McMaster in taking over the management and partial ownership of a struggling insurance company in Chattanooga named Provident Life and Accident Insurance Company (now Unum). Maclellan was drawn to Chattanooga for its burgeoning industrial economy. His vision was for Provident to play a significant role in the city’s growth by covering workers facing injuries and accidents – a concept that made it very unlike other insurance firms at the time.

Maclellan’s deep religious devotion encouraged him to give back to the community in other ways as well, and he passed this spirit of service and philanthropy down to his children. In 1945, his two children – Robert J. Maclellan and Dora Maclellan Brown – founded the Maclellan Foundation along with Robert’s son, Bob, in order to serve Chattanooga and its evangelical communities. Today, the Maclellan Family Foundations fund such initiatives as First Things First, Generous Giving, and many others. Thomas Maclellan’s great-grandsons, Hugh O. Maclellan, Jr. and Robert H. (Scott) Maclellan, continue the family’s philanthropic legacy as heads of The Maclellan Foundation and the Robert L. & Kathrina H. Maclellan Foundation.

“My husband, father-in-law, and grandfather-in-law were builders, people who looked for opportunities,” says Kathrina H. Maclellan, wife of Bob Maclellan. “They sought leaders and then worked to make them successful, whether they were with business, civic, or charitable institutions.”

She adds that all along, they were guided by principles larger than themselves. “Their values were faith, family, work, and charity,” she says.

 

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To Read About More of Chattanooga’s Founding Fathers, click the following links:

John Lupton

Robert H. Siskin

Thomas Maclellan

Leo & Ruby Lambert

Garnet & Frieda Carter

Jim Berry

Thomas Hooke McCallie and Descendants

Harry S. Probasco & Descendants

Rody Davenport & Sons

O.D. and Ruth McKee

William Emerson Brock & William Emerson Brock Jr.

Adolph Ochs

Zeboim Cartter Patten

 

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