C.M. "Bill" Gatton


C.M. "Bill" Gatton
2007 Honorary Alumni

A native of Kentucky, Carol Martin "Bill" Gatton possesses an entrepreneurial spirit and an eye for successful business ventures that began when he was only 8 – selling watermelons on the side of the road. He progressed up the ladder from there.

After graduating as valedictorian of his high school class, he enrolled at the University of Kentucky to study business administration and economics.

As a sophomore Gatton began working part time in automobile sales where his perseverance quickly resulted in success. Following a stint as an officer in the United States Army, Gatton pursued an M.B.A. in finance and banking at the Wharton Graduate School, University of Pennsylvania.

From there, Gatton renewed his interest in automobile dealerships and in the banking industry, broadening his business investments along the way. Gatton invested in banks in Kentucky and Indiana over the years. He served as Chairman of the Board for Area Bancshares based in Owensboro, KY. Under his leadership, Area Bancshares became the largest bank holding company headquartered in Kentucky. Area Bancshares was sold to BB& T in 2002. Today, in addition to Tennessee, he has business interests in Alabama, Kentucky and Texas.

He is a recognized philanthropist in higher education. The Univeristy of Kentucky's College of Business and Economics building proudly bears his name. One of the reasons for Gatton's generosity to institutions of higher education is because as he says, "I truly believe education expands one's vision and self-confidence."

For East Tennessee State University, he has generously supported many academic and athletic opportunities over the years. Most recently, he was an integral part of helping fund the new College of Pharmacy, which admitted its first class of 72 students in January.

"Pharmacy is a great career opportunity for young people. Prospective students will be able to attend ETSU without going all the way to Memphis for their education. We have an aging population, and trained pharmacists are essential for the health care of our older citizens. Also, the new College of Pharmacy will be a great boost to the economy of this region," Gatton said.

Over the years, Gatton has been known for his numerous community and regional affiliations including the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, Bristol Rotary Club, Salvation Army, Humane Society, and Bristol Boys and Girls Clubs, among others. He has garnered a number of awards and honors including the ETSU Foundation Margin of Excellence Award for 2007. In addition, Gatton has also served nationally and regionally in leadership roles for many automobile-related organizations.