Carl Austin Watson
Service and entrepreneurship were Carl Austin Watson's destiny, as he began his professional career serving his country and ended it as an automotive industry leader.
Through determination and perseverance, Watson worked his way up the career ladder, first in the grocery industry and then in the automotive field.
Watson was born in 1926 in Cleveland, Tennessee, and after graduating from Bradley High School at age 17, asked for his parents' permission to join the Navy. He did so at the height of World War II, at one point serving as a signal man aboard the destroyer USS Nelson. While he was on station in Tokyo Bay, the Japanese formally surrendered to the Allies, ending the war.
He married his longtime sweetheart, Billie Jo Wiley, in 1945 and they moved to Charleston, South Carolina so that Watson could fulfill the remainder of his four-year commitment to the Navy. Once that ended, he returned to Cleveland and landed a job working in a downtown grocery store. A few years later, he opened his own grocery store there - Austin's Food Market.
Having run a successful business, Watson decided to take a job selling cars at Furlow Cate Ford and worked his way into management. He did the same at Forrest Cate Ford and then in 1981, while working as general manager of Forrest Cate Ford, the Cate family offered the opportunity to buy the dealership.
He renamed the business Mountain View Ford and brought in members of his family to help run the company; first sons Don and David, and later, nephew Andy. As more dealerships were purchased, more family members joined the team. In 1989, he and his sons opened Mountain View Nissan together.
Watson also rose in the ranks of local industry organizations. He was president of the Chattanooga Automobile Trade Association, was chairman of the Atlanta Region Ford Dealer Advertising Fund Board, and served the Tennessee Automotive Trade Association as president and member of the board of directors.
He was also active in a number of civic and community service organizations, including the Masons, Order of the Eastern Star, America Legion, and the local Veterans of Foreign Wars, of which he was commander. Twice a month he spent time driving children to the hospital for needed care.
The Watson family of dealerships has grown to include Nissan, Lincoln, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep franchises. And they continue to be run by descendants of Austin Watson.
Watson passed away in 2005 at the age of 78.