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Benwood Foundation

The Benwood Foundation is a charitable Chattanooga foundation created in 1944 by Coca-Cola bottling magnate George Thomas Hunter in memory of his uncle and aunt, pioneer bottler Benjamin Franklin Thomas and Anne Taylor Jones Thomas. The name Benwood was taken from the Thomas summer home on Lookout Mountain. According to legend, on viewing the beautiful site Thomas had purchased, seemingly too steep for building, Anne Thomas remarked, "Well, Ben would."

The foundation's purpose was and remains "to promote religious, charitable, scientific, literary, and educational activities for the advancement or well-being of mankind." While only 10 percent of the Thomas bottling interests were estimated to come from Tennessee sources, some 90 percent of disbursements have been to Tennessee organizations. The bulk of Hunter's estate, 70 percent of the bottling company stock, went to the foundation after his death in 1950. The benefaction led to a precedent-setting lawsuit when family members sued regarding the tax status of the donation. A 1952 court ruling stated that the foundation did not have to pay death duties, which became the responsibility of the residuary estate (from which family members benefited). Upheld on appeal, the ruling saved Benwood millions of dollars, subsequently used for charitable causes, and has likewise benefited other Tennessee foundations with regard to probate law.

Published » December 25, 2009 | Last Updated » January 01, 2010