John H. Poteat
1999 Honorary Alumni
John H. Poteat was born in Bakersville, North Carolina, and grew up in Jonesborough, Tennessee. As a boy, he raised tobacco and started a retail milk business as a 4-H project. In 1932 representing the State of Tennessee, he spoke on the National Farm and Home Hour, broadcast by 57 radio stations. Poteat graduated from Jonesborough High School and attended East Tennessee State University, the University of Tennessee Medical School at Memphis, LaSalle Extension Accounting School, and various banking seminars.
He moved to Kingsport in 1934. For 27 years, he was Director and Chairperson of the East Tennessee Farm Production Credit Association covering 21 East Tennessee counties. During this time the loans increased from $350,000 to $94,000,000. In 1949-50, he was president of the East Tennessee District Fair, sponsored by the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce. This was the only year in which it made a profit.
Poteat began working as a sales agent and bookkeeper at Pet Dairy and from 1941-1950, he was manager of Peters' Gulf Oil Company that supplied products for the construction and operation of Holston Defense Corporation. In 1945, he became manager and co-owner of Blue Ridge Transportation Company with 32 transport trucks that supplied gasoline to companies in East Tennessee. He started his own business in 1950 as a distributor for Pure Oil Company (later called Unical). As the top motor oil salesman in the South, he won a trip to the home office in Chicago.
Poteat is a member of the ETSU Foundation and is involved in several other endeavors which keep him busy. He is co-founder and vice-chairman of Bank of Tennessee, where he has seen the bank grow from $2 million in 1974 to $257 million in 1999. Additionally, he is a member of First Baptist Church of Kingsport, where he has taught Sunday School, is a deacon, a member of the Finance committee and participated in a study on women as deacons. On his 600-acre farm, he raises feeder calves, hay and tobacco. Presently, he is developing a subdivision with 150 prime residential lots. His hobbies are growing flowers and watching football and basketball.
Poteat and his wife, the former Ruth Whitlock, have lived in Kingsport for 64 years. They have one daughter, Betty Olds, who graduated from the University of Tennessee and Duke University, majoring in education and history. They also have two grandchildren. Linda Burrell, a graduate from Furman University and Converse College, teaches in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, where she introduced the first public kindergarten program for 4-year-old children. Dr. John Olds, a graduate of North Carolina State University and Stanford University, is an aerospace engineer teaching at Georgia Institute of Technology and conducting research for NASA. The two great-grandchildren are Brandon Burrell, 10, and Maranda Burrell, 5.