Class  of  1941

Charles  H.  "Charlie"  Watkins, Jr.

Obituary  and  Editorial  Tribute



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Charles Watkins Jr.

Published: Friday, August 19, 2011 11:38 AM CDT
Paris native and O’Charley’s Inc. founder Charles Watkins Jr. died peacefully in his sleep on August 16, 2011, at the age of 87.

Preceded in death by his wife, Johnnie Watkins, he leaves a twin sister, Charlotte Canon of Florence, Ala.; a son, Charles H. (Chuck) Watkins III (Celia) of Nashville, and their three children, Greer, Charlie IV and Caroline; a daughter, Marcie Gemmill, (Steve) of Nashville and their two children, Andrew and Elizabeth; a daughter, Carole Dahlinger, of Nashville, and her two children, Bill and Karin;

Charlie served 20 years in the United States Marine Corps as a pilot and retired as a Major, USMC in 1963 after which he became the Assistant to the Chairman of the Board, Kemmons Wilson, the founder of Holiday Inns of America. He moved his family to Nashville in 1966 to open a Shakey’s Pizza franchise in the Green Hills area which launched a long and colorful entrepreneur career.

Later he founded a publicly held restaurant company Al Hirt’s Sandwich Saloon. He formed O’Charley’s, Inc. in 1971 and opened the first restaurant on 21st Avenue South in Nashville. He sold the company 11 years later and then developed and/or co-developed several other concepts including co-founding Cheeseburger Charley’s with his son in 1988.

Charlie will always be remembered for his engaging spirit and his thoughtful and enthusiastic personality both in business and in his personal relationships. He touched the lives of many individuals, both past employees and young upstarts in business. He was a dear friend to all that knew him. Dr. Robert Crumby and the Rev. Amelia Cannon will officiate. Pallbearers will be Dick Ferrando, John Jay Hooker, Nick Spiva, Nick Hill, Pat Gilmore and Mike Straisinger.

Funeral service will be at 1 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 22, at the Middle Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery, 7931 McCrory Lane, Nashville, Tenn.

Visitation will be on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2011, from 4-7 p.m. at Marshall-Donnelly-Combs Funeral Home. 615-327-1111.


Obituary  reprinted  from  THE  PARIS  POST-INTELLIGENCER
Paris, Tennessee
August 19, 2011  Edition ~ Used by Permission


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Native son began O'Charley’s chain

Charles Watkins Jr. was entrepreneur.

Not many people remain in Henry County who remember that the O’Charley’s restaurant chain was founded by and named for a native son.

Charles H. “Charlie” Watkins Jr. died Tuesday in Nashville, where he had lived since 1966. He was 87.

He was firmly in the mold of entrepreneurs who made such an impression on Henry County — names like Mitchum, Plumley, Mohon, Wilcox, Adams and Knott — even though his business enterprises were located elsewhere, rather than in his hometown.

Watkins’ father, who was assistant postmaster of Paris, and his mother, Bertie Greer Watkins, both served as elders at First Presbyterian Church.

He became a Marine Corps pilot in 1943 and retired 20 years later with the rank of major. He became an assistant to Holiday Inns founder Kemmons Wilson in Memphis, before moving to Nashville to open a Shakey’s Pizza restaurant.

It was the first of a series of innovative business ventures that spanned more than 20 years.

He started an Al Hirt Sandwich Saloon chain before launching, in the early 1970s, the first O’Charley’s on 21st Avenue in Nashville across from Vanderbilt University.

“That step launched Mr. Watkins into the ranks of influential Nashville entrepreneurs who would help reshape the economy of Middle Tennessee over a period of years,” The Tennessean in Nashville said.

Watkins sold the restaurant 11 years later, the newspaper reported. With his son, Charles Watkins III, he founded the Cheeseburger Charley’s chain in 1988. He retired from that company in 1996, and his son was active there until last year.

“He knew how to make people feel welcome when they walked in the door,” the younger Watkins said. “A lot of people in the restaurant business here have been greatly influenced by him.”

Charlie Watkins was a Henry County original. He belongs in our history books.




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Editorial reprinted  from  THE  PARIS  POST-INTELLIGENCER
Paris, Tennessee
August 17, 2011  Edition ~ Used by Permission

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