Hometown: Midway, Tenn.
Profession: Attorney with Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel.
Family: Wife, Lydia Barry.
Pets: Smoky the dog.
Education: 2008 graduate of University of the South and 2011 graduate of University of Tennessee School of Law.
Favorite movie: "The Shawshank Redemption."
Favorite book: Bible.
Favorite musicians: Hank Williams Jr. and Charlie Daniels.
Ryan Barry embraces hard work. In fact, he was raised on it.
At 25, the young law school graduate has his feet planted firmly on the ground. He knows where he's been, knows where he is and knows where he's going. It's part of a big plan he drafted for himself in high school.
"Some people don't value the benefit of working hard. Whether it's on a farm, in a restaurant, in law school, a doctor or teacher, if you work hard you are successful," he said.
This week, Barry begins his new job as a member of the estate planning team at Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel law firm in Chattanooga. He plans to work as hard there as he has on the 88-acre farm near Monteagle, Tenn., that his family has owned for six generations. He plans to apply the same skills that earned him the honor of being valedictorian at St. Andrew's-Sewanee High School and the University of the South. He was also first in his class with a 4.1 grade point average, earning the Most Distinguished Graduate Award, at the University of Tennessee Law School.
Q: When did you realize you wanted to be an attorney?
A: When I was a freshman in undergraduate school. I wanted to do something related to real estate, and law was a good choice because it would allow me to do something good for people. I'm not a fan of taxes, so being a real estate planner means I can help to find ways to minimize taxes for people. My interest in law just grew out of wanting to help others. People are happy when I show them how much I can help them save money. And, besides, my dad always said I'd be a good lawyer because I like to argue. Law school, though, was a challenge. I didn't know what to expect. It was a big step.
Q: Why did you choose to work in Chattanooga?
A: My family's farm is just 40 minutes away, so Chattanooga is close to home. Chattanooga is a neat city. There's new industry here and new industry coming. And there's a lot of things to do in nature. You get the benefits of living in a big city, but [you] get to be around the mountains and rivers.
Q: Now that you've finished college and landed a job in a law firm, do you plan to become active in the community?
A: Yes. Community outreach is important to me and to Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel. I will get involved with the Chambliss Children's Shelter. Once you've been there, it's hard not to get involved. The things they do for children are phenomenal. I'll also represent my firm recruiting law school graduates with roots in Chattanooga to come back here to practice law. Our law firm has a connection with the University of Tennessee School of Law, and since I graduated from there I'll be involved in talking to the graduates.
Q: To whom do you credit your academic achievements?
A: My parents. Growing up on an 88-acre farm, working hard is a requirement. When my dad grew up, it was a pig farm. When I grew up, it was a cattle and catfish farm. My dad had a restaurant, Four Seasons, on our property from 1980 to 2008. Now, it is a sustainable farm for our family. Most everything we eat, we grow or raise. So far this summer, we've already canned 250 quarts of tomatoes. My wife and I get a call every Saturday from my mother asking us to help her can. And we do.
All my life, I've been expected to work hard. Dad had us (my two brothers and one sister) doing so much that I thought it was normal. My whole life, I saw my mother get up at 2 a.m. and walk to the restaurant to go to work. I've learned that having a work ethic is a real advantage, and it's the best thing parents can teach their children. If you know how to work, especially if you put pride in what you do and do a good job, you'll always be able to take care of yourself and your family. The way I was raised applies to every part of my life. Everything I do, I do my best.
Q: You were also named "best athlete" in high school?
A: It all goes back to working hard. Whatever you do, do your best. It doesn't matter what the person next to you does, you just do your best. So I played football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring. And I loved it all. Though I was asked to play sports in college, I wanted to concentrate on my education and my future.
Q: Is parenting in your future?
A: We're going to start trying to start a family in December. I remember when I was at football camp before my senior year in high school. The coach told us that we needed to choose something we wanted to be best at, whether it was a quarterback, running back, or the best restaurant owner in the world. I said that I wanted to be the best husband and the best dad. That's why I didn't pursue a career in sports. After high school I started thinking about supporting my wife and kids. I'm different from a lot of people because most people want to be good at a lot of things. I prefer to do a couple of things and be exceptional at it.
Q: When did you meet your wife?
A: We met in the 9th grade and have been together since. My dad taught me that you love your wife more than yourself. You take a back seat to your family. We got married five years ago while we were in college. She got her master's degree while I was in law school. We have been extremely blessed.
We've had some rough spots. She was involved in a horrible car wreck in 2005 and had to have brain surgery. I had never been so frightened in my life. She was flown to Vanderbilt [hospital in Nashville], and the No. 2 brain surgeon in the country was there. After her surgery, he told me that though surgery went well she had lost a lot of blood and probably wouldn't make it through the night. Not only did she make it, she was released from the hospital five days later. In three weeks, she was back at work. From our standpoint, everything we've been given comes from God.