John A. Chambliss was one of the most colorful and unforgettable individuals of the Chattanooga area in modern times. He reveled in his chosen role as jester, civic promoter, noted attorney, historian, conservationist and public official. He was quiet about the many works of philanthropy and the countless times he lent a helping hand to other people.
He was a prominent member of a prominent family, his father having been Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, himself having been one of the leading members of the local bar, his family having carried on his traditions.
But it would not be amiss to say that he and Mrs. Chambliss devoted a larger part of their attention to their love for the beautiful and historic Chattanooga countryside. They developed with imagination and great devotion a 317-acre tract they called “Reflection Riding.” Along trails winding around reflecting lakes, they provided an array of trees and plants, labeled by name, that made their endeavor an outstanding arboretum.
Mr. Chambliss liked to stand in the midst of this nature masterpiece and tell stories of action in the War Between the States that took place there, on the western slope of Lookout Mountain. He enjoyed pointing to the swaths he had cut up the side of the mountain to clear exact paths through which sun would shine on the vernal and winter equinoxes as it traced its predictable positions in the heavens.
Mr. Chambliss had a love for literature, for legal fine points and a thirst for information of all kinds. He liked to laugh about his early difficulty in schools and the discipline against which he rebelled. But when the wonders of knowledge became tempting to him, he engaged in a never-ending quest for education that continued throughout his life.
At advanced age, he evinced more of the enthusiasm that usually is attributed to youth than most youth ever know.
He was constantly involved in civic life and served in political affairs as delegate to two constitutional conventions, a member of the state House of Representatives and the state Senate. He was a leader in business as well as law. He was a much-sought-after speaker. He was an inventor who enjoyed experimentation. His wit was rare and entertaining, and often informative. He was long active in the Presbyterian Church.
Perhaps the only quiet side of John Chambliss was his giving to others. He was one who liked to help people and say nothing about it. The contributions to good causes, the encouragement of young people with assistance for education, the helping hand to people in all walks of life and circumstances were typical of John Chambliss’ interest in people.
John Chambliss always seemed young, because he was young at heart and mind.
Think of John Chambliss and his wife, Margaret, as you drive thru Reflection Riding and tour the picturesque views of the cultural landscape they designed and made available for all to experience.