Chamber History

Our Chamber has a long and interesting history.  For over forty years, with a few brief intermissions, chamber or chamber-like organizations have been actively promoting the development of Murray County and the welfare of its citizens.  The first of these organizations was the Chatsworth Chamber of Commerce, chartered in 1948.  The founding directors were Frederick Brown, Floyd Wilbanks, Sr., Robert Vining, E. W. McDougall, R. E. Chambers, Robert Hemphill, Barron Brooks, Wilbur Jackson and J. A. Springfield.  The officers were J. T. Kenemer, president; Charles A. Pannell, vice-president; and R. E. Chambers, secretary-treasurer.  According to Barron Brooks, the prime-mover in founding this organization was R. E. Chambers.  Mr. Chambers was very much involved in all such organizations in Murray County as well as to promote tourism.  The primary businesses that were sought after were the "spread houses", forerunners of today's carpet industry.  This original chamber raised enough money to purchase the Chief Vann House which they then donated to the Historical Society.  Charles Pannell was especially active in the Vann House project.  The Chatsworth Chamber of Commerce disbanded after two or three years.        

 The community leaders decided that a name change might help their effort and in 1956 they chartered Chatsworth Enterprises, Inc.  The purposes of Chatsworth Enterprises were the same as those of Chatsworth Chamber of Commerce - to promote industrial development and tourism.  R. E. Chambers was the first president of Chatsworth Enterprises, Inc.  Over the next fifteen years or so, Chatsworth Enterprises was very active and brought in many industries, including Fort Mountain Tufters.  Chatsworth Enterprises, Inc. also developed ties with the Highway 411 Association in Maryville, Tennessee to promote tourism along our main artery.  Chatsworth Enterprises disbanded in the early 1970's after a very successful record.   

 Chatsworth Industries, Inc. was formed in 1957 with W. W. Fincher as president.  This organization was not chamber-like but was a business corporation formed to encourage real estate development.  One of the reasons Chatsworth Industries, Inc. was formed, however, was because of the experience that Chatsworth Enterprises had in trying to find available land for incoming industries to purchase.  Four stockholders of Chatsworth Industries purchased the J. A. Howard farm in 1965.  From this purchase Murray Industrial park was formed.  Chatsworth Industries, Inc. was disbanded in 1981.  

Economic development, industrial development, diversified industry, a larger tax base, increased tourist traffic, a healthy economy, more and better paying jobs, a better quality of life for Murray Countians -- these are the things a chamber of commerce strives to accomplish.  These were the goals of the 1948 Chatsworth Chamber of Commerce; these are the goals of today's Chatsworth-Murray County Chamber of Commerce.   

In 1977 Andrew B. "Bennie" Becton rekindled the idea of a local Chamber of Commerce.  Mr. Becton had arrived in Chatsworth from Pompano Beach, Florida in 1975 as the Vice-President of the newly formed First National Bank of Chatsworth.  In Florida, he had experienced what an active chamber can accomplish.  As the 1977 president of the Chatsworth Kiwanis Club, Mr. Becton formed a committee to start a chamber of commerce in Murray County.  The committee was made up of the following four persons:  Bennie Becton, Lawrence Knight (a paralegal assistant working for Pete Calhoun), Calvin Means (formerly WQMT) and Charles Etheridge, then of Cohutta Banking Company.  The project of forming a new chamber was underwritten by the Kiwanis Club.  

In May1977, the first Board of Directors was elected at a meeting held at Cohutta Lodge.  In June of 1977, the first officers of the Chamber were elected with Charles Etheridge serving as the first president.  On June 27, 1977 the Chatsworth-Murray County Chamber of Commerce was officially incorporated with its charter stating the following as its purpose:  "Advancing and encouraging development of the city of Chatsworth and Murray County and the best interest of all citizens of the entire community.  To advertise the city and county to aid and encourage the membership of this corporation in their respective businesses, trades or professions, to foster the general economic welfare and civic betterment of Chatsworth and Murray County".  The Chamber's first offices were donated by H. Y. Dangler and were located in the Dangler Building over Dangler Real Estate.  Lawrence Knight served as the first part-time Executive Vice-President.  Later the Chamber offices were moved to the Federal Building.     

The going has not always been easy, but due to the dedication and determination of its leaders and staff, the Chamber has accomplished a lot over the past eighteen years.  The following persons have served as president of the Chamber since its beginning:  Charles Etheridge, Jerry Lifsey, Ben Messer, Tom Greeson, Ed Lewandowski, Sue Wilson, Doug Ellis, Albert Edwards, Jim Hazel, Bert Watts, Don Phillips, Dan Townsend, Jimmy Wilbanks, Gail Joye (acting), Floyd Franklin, Eddie Miller, Anne Brindle, Joel Etheridge, Dick Berger, Greg Baker, Arnold Hufstetler, Rodney West, Steve Anglea, Dan Sluder, Bob Walsh and Michael Fortner.  

The Chatsworth-Murray County Chamber of Commerce is alive and well.  It has accomplished a lot in its 26-year history but has no intentions of resting on its laurels.  With the help and participation of all members of the community, the possibilities for enhancing the quality of life for all Murray Countians is limitless. 

-----by Tim Howard  

Chatsworth-Murray County Chamber of Commerce building today.

Chairman Louis Dykes acquires the keys from Roland Harbin for the new Chamber Building.

1998 a new Chamber building emerges.