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Sue Guinn Legg

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Meet Your Neighbor: After 50 years of law, Lee Davis Jr. to go back to school

June 15th, 2014 9:49 pm by Sue Guinn Legg

Meet Your Neighbor: After 50 years of law, Lee Davis Jr. to go back to school

Attorney Lee Davis Jr. is retiring at the end of June after 50 years of work as a lawyer and accountant and returning to school to study auto mechanics at Northeast State to learn to better maintain his two Mazda Miatas. (Sue Guinn Legg/Johnson City Press

After more than 50 years of work in his multifaceted career as a lawyer, estate planner, certified public accountant and real estate agent and developer, Johnson City attorney Lee Davis Jr. will retire at the end of June, rev up his beloved Miata and zoom off into an equally industrious retirement.

While the many opportunities that most people dream of for their retirement — more time to for recreational pursuits, more time with family, more time to travel, more time to give to church and community — are all part of Davis’ plan, the next great chapter of his life will also take a challenging turn.

Come fall, the Miata enthusiast known for his craving for horsepower will be heading back to school to study auto mechanics.

“I’m going to have some fun,” he said. And he’s done his research.

Davis has visited Northeast State Community College and found its automotive program most impressive.

Rather than the certification sought by more traditional students, his goal is to learn to tune and tend to minor repairs and maintenance on his tricked-out Miata that in the past have required trips to a specialized mechanic in Atlanta.

Born and raised in Memphis, Davis began his professional career while still in college after earning his real estate license at the tender age of 19.

Working his way through Memphis State University, he graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and real estate, then proceeded to Vanderbilt University’s School of Law, emerging with his law license in 1967 and immediately going to work for Arthur Andersen & Co. as a senior tax accountant.

Working in Memphis as a CPA and lawyer doing estate planning, Davis found himself wanting to do more with the law. So in 1972, when the resort development Carolina Caribbean Corp. offered him a position as general counsel in its laid back, “sweaters instead of suits” offices in Boone, N.C., and stock to boot, Davis picked up and moved his young family across the state.

The company was selling a lot of lots in Beech Mountain, N.C., but when the prime interest rate hit 21 percent, the wait for investors put the writing on the wall.

“I had to feed my family so I went and opened a law office in Mountain City,” Davis said. “I did everything, domestic, divorce, estate, whatever walked in the door.”

His practice frequently brought him to Johnson City and eventually into association with his longtime partner, attorney Dick Johnson.

When Johnson retired, Davis led his own office with two younger lawyers in his employ until 2001 when he finally came to work in the Johnson City offices of the nationally renowned firm of Hunter, Smith and Davis.

“I feel blessed to finish up my career with such a distinguished firm,” he said.

Certified as an estate planning specialist by the Tennessee Supreme Court with multiple appearances on Mid-South Super Lawyers listing in the area of estate planning, Davis also feels blessed to have had a hand in some very beneficial bequests to nonprofit organizations and colleges and universities across the region where students will continue to attend school fortuitously because of his clients’ foresight.

In his retirement, he will continue to work with some of those groups to encourage others to consider giving likewise.

He also plans to become more active with church. And as a shooting buff, he wants to learn to load his own shells.

He and his wife, Carla, enjoy traveling and have compiled a list of faraway destinations they would like to visit next.

Members of the Tri-Cities Miata Club and Ridgerunner Miata Club in Asheville, N.C., they’ll also be taking more runs out where the roads get curvy and longer tours with “a bunch of great folks” who, like them, realize “these cars are so much fun to drive.”

“There’s lots to see and lots to do,” Davis said.

“I have seen so many people keep working until they die. We’ve taken some extended vacations. ... But I want to spend a little more time with the wife, the children and the grandchildren all together.”

“General MacArthur said, ‘Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.’ Lawyers reword that a little and say, ‘Old lawyers never die, they just lose their appeal.’

“I’ll just fade away. ... I’ll speed away I guess.”

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