K. Newton Raff

K. Newton Raff
2005 Honorary Alumni

A sense of duty, honor, and commitment to his family, business, and community has propelled K. Newton Raff to the top of his field. His personal commitment to our community, coupled with his ability to encourage others to share their resources, have benefited our region for many years now, the effects of which will be felt for many years to come.

Raff received a football scholarship to Furman University. After two years, a shoulder injury, and getting low on funds, he went home for the summer, during which time his mother suggested he get a job at the North Carolina National Bank in his hometown of Tryon. The folks at the local bank suggested he try their main office in Charlotte.

The only job open was a night job as a proof operator, which he took, making $275 a month. After working in the proof department for three months, he was promoted to the mailroom. It was there, Raff realized that banking was a career he loved and he became highly motivated to succeed because he loved what he was doing.


As he progressed at the bank, he returned to college at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He continued his education at the Tennessee School of Banking at Vanderbilt and Graduate School of Banking of the South at Louisiana State University, graduating with honors. He later served as an instructor at both Vanderbilt and LSU. In 1999, he attended Harvard Business School where he completed their Executive Leadership program.

Raff began his career with First Tennessee Bank in 1976 as an Operations Officer. He quickly moved up the ranks serving in various roles and capacities, and in 1985, he accepted the role of Regional President for First Tennessee Bank in Kingsport and Bristol, where he doubled the bank’s size from $85 million in 1986 to $177 million in 1989. In 1992, he was promoted to Chairman and CEO of First Tennessee Bank Northeast Tennessee and initiated and closed the purchase of Home Federal, a $840 million savings and loan. In 1998, Raff was awarded Executive of the Year at the Greater Tri-Cities Business Awards. Later, he was selected as one of the Top 25 CEOs in the region.

Raff has been involved in numerous community organizations and causes. He is currently on the board of directors and executive committee for the Salvation Army, Northeast State Technical Community College Foundation, ETSU College of Business and Technology Advisory Board and the ETSU Foundation Board. He serves as treasurer of the Tri-Cities Economic Development Alliance, is a Paul Harris Fellow and Sustainer of the Rotary Club of Johnson City, a member of the United Way’s Signature Club, a Johnson City County Club member, and is involved with Good Samaritan Ministries.

Raff has been married to his wife Carmen for 35 years. The couple has three children, Kenneth (a 2001 ETSU graduate) Richard, and Lisa, who are in banking – even his wife, Carmen, was an international banker at NCNB, where they met.