Carl Levi and some of his friends have been eating Friday lunch at Wally’s on McCallie Avenue for many years. There’s even a plaque on the restaurant wall honoring Mr. Levi.
In addition to eating, Carl shares a lot of stories with those friends. Chattanooga Mayor Rudy Olgiati gave him a job in the city treasurer’s office where he remained for 45 years. Mayor Pat Rose appointed him as city treasurer, a position he held for 25 years. He also was elected to two terms as Hamilton County trustee.
Mr. Levi marched in the Armed Forces Day Parade (starting in 1949) while a student at Chattanooga High School and later served on the committee overseeing the parade. He is proud of his friendship with Congressional Medal of Honor recipients Charles Coolidge and Desmond Doss. Carl Levi gave the eulogy at Desmond Doss’ memorial service. At the urging of Mr. Coolidge, Mr. Levi joined the American Legion Post 14 in 1954 where he remains an active member today. He’s served as post commander and is active in the state and national legion organizations.
Mr. Levi joined the National Guard in the 50’s to earn some extra money while in school. He was promoted from corporal to Brigadier General. The National Guard Armory on Hotlzclaw Avenue bears his name and he is a co-founder of the Chattanooga Area Veterans Council. At 91, he is proud he has lived in Chattanooga all his life being raised in East Lake.
Carl said a very special friend was the late Rev. Ronald Ragon, longtime pastor of the Brainerd Presbyterian Church. He said Rev. Ragon encouraged him in his Christian faith.
Recently at Mr. Levi’s weekly luncheon he shared some of his stories with a group of friends. He was a musician playing the upright bass. He enjoys the big bands, crooners and country. He worked with country music artist Faron Young who wanted the Chattanoogan to move to Nashville, but Carl declined. While playing a gig at the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club, Mr. Levi was unaware that RCA Victor executive Chet Atkins was nearby. Chet Atkins also offered him a Nashville job, but again he declined. He stayed in contact with both musicians.
Carl said as youngsters he and a friend would walk up the hill from their home in East Lake to the Bachman tunnels. He said the boys would stop traffic on both ends of the tunnel where trucks could clear. He said they would earn several dollars in tips from the drivers.
As a legionnaire Carl Levi walked the halls of the United States Senate pushing for a constitutional amendment making flag burning a crime. He came up one vote short.
He raised over a half million dollars to build the Veterans pavilion at the Chattanooga VA National Cemetery. He secured a promise from the Veterans Administration to build two committal shelters and that eventually happened.
Mr. Levi is very proud of his accomplishments of being an advocate for veterans and the list goes on and on. We should add telling stories about Chattanooga to the list. Mr. Levi is quick to point out he wants no recognition. He said his membership in the American Legion helped him obtain his goals.
At 91, what does Carl Levi’s future hold? He responded, “Eating lunch on Friday’s and telling as many as possible how much I appreciate their friendship."
As anyone will find, Carl Levi is always willing to share a story or two, just ask him.