Jake Butcher, head of failed banking empire, dies
Jake Butcher helped bring the 1982 World's Fair to Knoxville.
Jake Butcher, a civic leader and would-be governor who helped command an East Tennessee banking empire that collapsed in scandal and criminal charges, died Wednesday morning, longtime associate Jesse Barr said.
The Union County native had been in declining health.
In the 1970s and '80s Butcher and his brother C.H. Butcher Jr. oversaw a banking operation that included the United American chain. In November 1982, federal financial authorities moved in and raided the operations, bringing an end to the brothers' fortunes.
The Butchers were prosecuted in federal court amid allegations of fraud and mismanagement. Both men ended up serving time in federal facilities.
Butcher made his mark on the East Tennessee community in other ways, however.
He was a leading champion of the 1982 World's Fair, which many skeptics thought could never succeed in Knoxville.
Located in an old industrial area west of Henley Street and north of Cumberland Avenue, the fair drew millions of visitors during its late spring to early autumn run in 1982. President Ronald Reagan was among the many dignitaries to attend.
World's Fair Park, including the Sunsphere, stands as the fair's ultimate legacy. While officials struggled for years to figure out what to do with it, the park ultimately became a positive and popular public spot.
Federal banking investigators raided the brothers' failing Butcher banking empire the day after the World's Fair closed.
During his life, Butcher had also sought, without success to leave his mark in politics.
In 1978, the Democrat ran for governor of Tennessee. Republican and fellow East Tennessean Lamar Alexander beat him handily, however.
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