Fletcher Bright ‘49, one of McCallie School’s most loyal sons and a true renaissance man, passed away surrounded by family and friends at his home in Chattanooga on Christmas Day.
Bright was a leader in business, philanthropy and the arts throughout his life. He was a noted real estate developer in Chattanooga for decades at his company Fletcher Bright Company, where he learned the business from his father, 1909 McCallie graduate Gardner Bright.
For all his success in real estate, Fletcher Bright was perhaps most well known as an accomplished bluegrass musician and founding member of the Dismembered Tennesseans, which he started as a student at McCallie with classmates Frank McDonald ‘48, Sammy Joyce ‘48 and Ansley Moses ‘48.
“It was on the Ridge in the 1940s where Fletcher Bright first began to share his musical talents with the world, but his impact was felt throughout Chattanooga and around the world,” said McCallie Headmaster Lee Burns ‘87. “Fletcher’s faithful service to McCallie was remarkable, and his willingness to share so much of his time to support McCallie will be remembered forever. He will be missed, and we share our deepest condolences with his family.”
Bright was a charter member of the McCallie Board of Advisors from 1987 to 1989, and he served two terms on the Board of Trustees from 1973 to 1975 and again from 1989 to 1998. He was named trustee emeritus in 2017, and was given the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1999.
As a student at McCallie following in the footsteps of his father, uncle John Bright 1913 and older brother George Thomas Bright ‘43, Fletcher Bright was involved in a variety of activities. He was a member of the boxing and football teams, and he participated in the Gentlemen’s After Dinner Forensics Society. Not surprisingly, he also was active in fine arts on the Ridge, performing with the McCallie Glee Club and other school groups as well as his extracurricular musical performances with the Dismembered Tennesseans.
Beyond his official duties at McCallie, Bright returned to the Ridge often to play music for students throughout the years, and he was a guest as recently as this past summer when he visited with boys at McCallie’s Character Leadership Community (CLC) camp. During that visit he put on an impromptu piano performance of “boogie-woogie” music, which he learned to play with his classmates as a McCallie student.
“(Bright) mentioned that he used to play a lot of ‘boogie-woogie’ when he was a student at McCallie in the 1940s,” recalled Dr. Duke Richey ‘86, Baker Chair of American History at McCallie and the director of McCallie’s CLC program. “A boy asked him what boogie-woogie was, and Fletcher said ‘Well, if I had a piano, I could show you.’
“Thankfully, there was a piano down the hall, and we wheeled it in. His performance was a highlight of the day for those boys. Fletcher Bright showed those young men what it meant to be a McCallie man, and he is one of the greatest ever to walk on this campus as well as throughout Chattanooga.”
Fletcher’s real estate business remains widely successful, and he was earned many honors for his work with the arts and music throughout the years. He was a 1943 graduate of the Bright School, founded by his aunt Mary Gardner Bright, and Davidson College, and his musical skills and love for the arts earned him numerous accolades.
He was awarded the 2016 Ruth Holmberg Arts Leadership Award by ArtsBuild for his contributions to the arts in Chattanooga, the 2005 Governor’s Award in the Arts, and most recently received the 2017 Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Bluegrass Music Association. The 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival in Chattanooga was founded by Bright and his son George Bright ‘75 in 2007, and has become an internationally renowned celebration of bluegrass music.
Fletcher Bright is survived by children George Bright '75, Lizzer Bright Graham, Frank Bright '79, Ann Bright Monk and Lucy Bright Griffin, as well as several grandchildren including McCallie alumnus Jones Graham from the class of 2009.