Sevierville businessman Brownlee Reagan dies at 87

Dec. 05, 2013 @ 11:17 PM

The city of Gatlinburg lost a pillar in the community Tuesday when Brownlee Reagan passed away.

Reagan, 87, was a self-made businessman with many successful hotels and other ventures, as well as an active participant in the community, serving in the Chamber of Commerce, city commission and county commissions, among other prominent roles in the community. He also played a large part in the founding of the Tennessee State Bank and the building of the convention center in Gatlinburg.

Reagan served in the Navy during World War II, being stationed in the South Pacific and seeing combat. He later found a career in the highway patrol and eventually became the chief of police. After buying his first motel in the late 1950s, he retired from that role in 1964 to attend to his business efforts full-time.

Family friend Robert Montgomery remembered Reagan's decision to jump into the motel business. "He had built a car lot in the 50s," Montgomery said. "And not long after that, he told his wife, 'We're in the wrong business, we need to be in the motel business,' and he went and built his first motel."

After that first motel, Reagan bought another hotel on what is now known as the Parkway in Gatlinburg and never looked back.

Montgomery said he fondly remembers Reagan's commitment to Gatlinburg. "Gatlinburg was his life," Montgomery said. "He had a lot of pride in Gatlinburg. We lost a very supportive old-timer, that's for sure."

Through the years, Montgomery said he developed many fond memories of Reagan. The two met in 1975, and over time Reagan came to be Montgomery's employer, landlord and business partner.

Gatlinburg Mayor Jerry Hays marveled at the success that Reagan had in his business endeavors, as well as his impact on the community.

"Everything he did, it seemed like it turned out good," Hays said. "He was a one-of-a-kind type of guy, and he will be missed. There's going to be a hard void to fill—there's no way we'll have any more Brownlee Reagans."

Everyone enjoyed Reagan, Hays said. "He was a mentor for many young entrepreneurs and was always active in his community."

Hays said that he too was privileged to be Reagan's friend. "As far back as he and I go, I met him when he was a highway patrolman," Hays said. "I watched him go through life just doing a lot of different ventures. He and I were together in the banking industry, on the board together for the Tennessee State Bank."

Said Hays, "I've always had a lot of respect for him."

The family will received friends from 4-6 p.m. Saturday, with funeral service to follow at 6 p.m. in the West Chapel of Atchley Funeral Home. A private graveside service will be held.