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Dr. David McCallie

Dr. David McCallie, a Chattanooga native and longtime area physician, is being remembered as a leader, a visionary, a mentor and a diplomat for deeds well beyond the scope of his practice.

McCallie died Monday. He was 92.

He had been chief of staff at both Erlanger and Memorial hospitals and was president of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society, but he also played significant roles in the creation of the Chattanooga Hamilton County Hospital Authority, Blood Assurance and the Project Access Community Health Partnership.

McCallie remained active until shortly before his death, authoring a book on his grandfather's Chattanooga ministry during the Civil War at 90 and climbing to the top of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park at 91.

"In a line of exemplary physician leaders, Dr. David McCallie was truly a giant," said Rae Bond, executive director of the medical society. "While patient care was always his foremost priority, he also dedicated his time and talents to engage his fellow physicians to improve the health of the community at large.

"As the medical society celebrates its 130th year in 2013," she said, "it has been clear that [he] was a transformative leader for the society and for the community at large. He will be sorely missed."

Dr. Dan Drinnon, who joined the McCallie Medical Group in 1992 and remains a physician with its successor, Beacon Health Alliance, said he was fortunate to work with McCallie after he completed his residency.

"He was an incredible example," he said. "Many doctors have the science of medicine down. David had the art [of medicine] down. His people skills were wonderful. He was a diplomat. He could handle difficult situations with ease. I was lucky to have that association early in my career."

Leonard Fant, who was chief operating officer at Erlanger hospital when McCallie was chief of staff, said his friend of 50 or 55 years "could circle the wagon and do good things" but wasn't averse to telling you that "you were on the wrong road."

"I've never been as comfortable in administration as I was with him," Fant said.

Fant said McCallie, who attended a regular Wednesday lunch gathering until just three weeks ago, was "the Moses that led [Erlanger] out of the desert."

He was not only "behind the rebuilding of Erlanger hospital" but helped nurture the medical staff during their years together with rotating monthly social gatherings.

"He was a great guy, a great leader, a great visionary," Fant said.

Jim Hobson, president and chief executive officer of Memorial Health Care System, said McCallie's achievements as a healer and organizational visionary "cannot be overstated."

"He was a singular man who has bettered thousands of lives, and his presence will be missed and leadership mourned," he said.

The son of the headmaster and head librarian of McCallie School, Spencer Jarnigan McCallie and Katharine Pierce McCallie, he was born on the Missionary Ridge campus, was a seven-year student there and later served as the chairman of its board of trustees. He was honored in 1985 as a distinguished alumnus.

"Dr. McCallie served McCallie faithfully for virtually his entire life, as the longtime school physician, as a trustee and as a friend to generations of McCallie students," said school headmaster Dr. R. Kirk Walker Jr. "He was a man of great faith who lived his values every day. He was an inspiration to all of us."

He also was a longtime deacon and elder at First Presbyterian Church, where his grandfather, the Rev. Thomas Hooke McCallie, had served during the Civil War.

Gerry U. Stephens, a friend of more than 50 years and fellow church member, said McCallie was a "great community leader for Chattanooga" and a "great individual."

"He was a clear thinker, a devoted Christian and had a great family," Stephens said.

McCallie practiced medicine in Chattanooga for more than 50 years, beginning when he assumed the practice of the late Dr. James Bibb in 1952. McCallie later practiced with the late Dr. E. White Patton and Dr. J. Ed Strickland and his son, Dr. Jack McCallie, in the McCallie Medical Group. That group was one of the founding practices of Beacon Health Alliance, which was established with him as its first president and chief executive officer.

Through the years, he was honored as the Tennessee Medical Association's Outstanding Physician of the Year in 1981 and with the Tennessee Hospital Association's Distinguished Community Service Award (1976). He and his wife, Maddin, were jointly honored with the Kiwanis Club of Chattanooga's Distinguished Citizenship Award in 1978.

Maddin McCallie died in 2010.

David McCallie is survived by three children, David Park McCallie Jr., of Stilwell, Kan.; Allen Lupton McCallie, of Chattanooga; Jack Bass McCallie, of Chattanooga; and six grandchildren. A fourth son, Frederick Maddin McCallie, died in 1986.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at or 423-757-6497.