Chattanoogan: David Crockett – Connecting The Dots

Saturday, November 23, 2013 - by Jen Jeffrey

On Nov. 22, 1963, David Crocket had just turned 18 years old while the nation mourned the death of our president, John F. Kennedy.

“I sprinted down to the selective service office to sign up. I was about 175 pounds - and I looked like I was 12. I hadn’t even thought about a razor yet. I walked in and I said, ‘I’m here and I am ready to register’,” David laughs. “I can still see the ladies’ faces thinking ‘get out of here, kid’. All I could think about was that I was 18 years old and I was there to do what’s necessary.”

David has always had a mindset to help out and do whatever he could to make things better and has been very instrumental in many of the changes that have taken place in our city.

Growing up in Bynum, Ala., David describes it as a Norman Rockwell-type setting with his parents Paul and Mildred Crockett. David is the fourth great nephew of the original Davy Crockett who was a well-known, Tennessee frontiersman and pioneer and eventually became a U.S. Congressman.

That same pioneer spirit clearly dwells in the heart of this modern day Davy Crockett. “My passion is promoting Chattanooga and to bring ideas that will shape the future for cities and companies,” David vows.

He blends that with his passion for the outdoors and often hunts and fishes as he travels for business. David remembers having a desire for hunting since he was a boy.

“I got my first 22 when I was eight years old and I could hunt by myself when I was 10,” he says.

He hunted rabbits and squirrels with the neighborhood kids and would go hunting with his father as well. “My dad was a bird hunter and you couldn’t do that until you were older. I got to go when I was 12 years old and it was like a rite of passage,” David asserts.

“Quail hunting is more dangerous because, when the birds flush, they go in all directions and you have to have enough maturity not to swing back on the dogs or another hunter. I knew I was full grown then – that I had made it,” he beams.

Coming from a long line of hunters in the family, David was aware of conservation and sustainability ideas that he learned through hunting and fishing methods that were taught to him.

“We were shooting the very birds that were descendants of the birds which my ancestors had hunted. I had heard stories of all of my father and uncles' hunts and we only would take a few birds out of each covey. I learned to leave birds so they would sustain themselves,” David maintains.

“You learn a lot with hunting and fishing. Those are the true conservationist - fisherman, hunters and farmers. They are closer to the land and are with it every day. They can tell you what the changes are,” he says.

David still recalls the feelings of hopping on a Greyhound bus heading west for a hunting trip with his friend Ted.  “It was my first trip out there and I fell in love with it. Now, I have to go out there and when I do - I roll in the sage like a dog. I literally do – I love the smell of it.”

Proud of his heritage, David explains that his great-great-great-great-uncle opposed the removal of the Cherokees.  “To this day, Native Americans honor him and, at the same time, they will not carry a $20 bill because it has Andrew Jackson’s picture on it. They were blood enemies and Jackson had him defeated.”

David admits to having a ‘smidgen’ of Native American in his blood on his grandmother’s side.

“She had high cheek bones, eyes as black as coal and her hair (at the time that I knew her) was snow white and pulled tight in a bun,” he remembers fondly.

David proudly wears a bolo tie with an antler clip that was specially made by his friend, John, who is from the Zuni tribe.

“Its Scrimshaw and he put a little turquois in it. John is a silversmith and has great stuff,” he says.

David smiles when he tells about his first hunting trip with his friend. “I was hunting with a bow and he had a rifle. I had asked him if he ever bow hunted and he said, ‘Ya know… that didn’t work out real good for us the first go around, so I use a rifle’,” David laughs.

Though David’s legacy runs deep in his veins, he admits to never killing a bear as the legendary song proclaims.

“It’s kind of cliché isn’t it? I never really wanted to kill one. I look at them and they are kind of neat. If you want to kill one, be my guest…but I have no desire just to shoot them,” he says.

After a few years in the Army, David joined the IBM Company for over 20 years.

He married his wife Sue and they have four children, David, Matthew, Nathan and Lindsey and granddaughter Olivia.

David ran for City Council in 1990 and served throughout the decade. “That was when all the good stuff was happening. We brought Greenway Farms, the ball field complex… big structural changes …I like to do things that support our growth in economy and manufacturing,” David insists.

In 1996, he pushed for the high-speed rail between Chattanooga and Georgia's capital and had met with Japan Central about their high speed rail and magnetic levitation trains.

“The idea was a win-win situation. It wasn’t about a train - it was about economics. It was about being 30 minutes away. What kind of jobs would that mean for Chattanooga? Professional-based, knowledge-based jobs… the kind we need in Chattanooga. Otherwise our young people leave here and go to Atlanta or Charlotte. We have something here, but we don’t have enough professional-based or knowledge-based jobs here. The idea is to build one stick at a time,” he says.

“The quality of life in Chattanooga is starting to get better. We created a plan around sustainability – that’s what we had. That would thread through manufacturing and support the downtown development as well. We have built a ‘quality of life’ place and that was the emerging mega trend in 1990 – we were the first in the country and now everybody’s doing it – every city has that strategy,” he says.

While businesses are thinking about today, David Crockett is thinking about tomorrow. It has to do with good business sense, but what undoubtedly motivates him is thinking of his children and grandchildrens’ future. His eyes light up when he speaks of his granddaughter Olivia who calls him “Big Pa” and he affectionately calls her “Boo Pa”.

David would like Chattanooga to focus on economic development (though we are limited by acreage) but that is why it is important to him to see things come together. 

“People in Chattanooga are driving to Atlanta for jobs, but if you make Atlanta 35 minutes away, it will create more jobs for our city. It is like the Internet …nobody knew how much economic change and opportunity would come from that connection. It is the same thing with the ‘physical’ connection. When you are 35 min from Atlanta, you are in ‘one place’. You have an instant professional-based economy,” he maintains.

David works with a national group who are writers, speakers and consultants on regional issues to discuss total quality management. He believes that we must look at how things are connected and consider the ‘ripple effect’.

“A mistake will amplify and become geometrical and it will cause 25 more to make a mistake. The idea is that you look and understand those relationships and try to make these things better. Total quality management is very similar to the principles of sustainability. Sustainability says that we don’t do something without understanding what it is going to do to everything else,” David advises.

“I want to advance a set of ideas and take people from the daily stuff of ‘getting the cats out of the tree’ to, ‘what are longterm issues and strategic changes of having a whole country with high speed connections - not just electronic, but physical,” he says.

“If you could connect Atlanta to Chattanooga and Chattanooga to Nashville and Nashville to Louisville and build a network having physical connectivity, that would create as great or greater an economic boom as the Internet created from the 90s to now. That was all about connections… that is all it is,” David contends.

When a city makes a decision, David believes in the bottom line which consists of three things to consider; is it good for the environment, is it good for the economy and is it good for the community?

“If we ask those three questions, it will wind up being less expensive,” he vows, “It will save a lot of time and you won’t have to go back with a mop and bucket.”

jen@jenjeffrey.com


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