published Friday, February 26th, 2010

Local families have Coke connection

Coca-Cola Enterprises is the world's largest bottler of Coca-Cola with much of its network coming from its inclusion of the Coca-Cola bottling enterprises of the Lupton and Johnston families that have deep Chattanooga roots.

John T. "Jack" Lupton in the 1980s sold his family bottling operations that included Houston, Dallas and Denver to Coca-Cola Co. His holdings had originated with his grandfather, J.T. Lupton, who was one of the pioneers of Coke bottling and had been built up over the years by his father, Cartter Lupton. Jack Lupton later led the rejuvenation of downtown Chattanooga by his strong support of the Tennessee Aquarium.

Summerfield K. Johnston Jr. sold his bottling operations, including those in Cleveland, Tenn., and they also became a key part of Coca-Cola Enterprises in 1991. He served for a decade as CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises before his retirement about nine years ago. Mr. Johnston, too, was a third-generation Coca-Cola bottler with his grandfather, James F. Johnston, having been for a time the owner of the world's first franchised bottler of Coca-Cola, located in Chattanooga. His father, Summerfield K. Johnston Sr., also was a leader in bottling.

Chattanooga's roots in bottling Coca-Cola date to 1899 when attorneys Benjamin Thomas and Joseph Whitehead acquired the rights to bottle Coca-Cola in much of the nation. Their first franchised bottling operation was launched in Chattanooga. Later bottling activities rippled from Chattanooga with J.T. Lupton and others leading the way in other parts of the country.

Today J. Frank Harrison III, a Baylor School alumnus, heads Coca-Cola Bottling Consolidated in Charlotte, N.C. His father, J. Frank Harrison Jr., was long involved in bottling and his grandmother was a member of the Lupton family.

Chattanooga Coca-Cola Bottling, whose operations are on Amnicola Highway and is recognized as Coke's first franchised bottler, is owned by Coca-Cola Bottling Co. United in Birmingham. That company has been long led by members of the Crawford Johnson family that originally was based in Chattanooga.

Source: Newspaper archives

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