With a more than 50-year career practicing law in Tennessee and eight other states, it’s safe to say Charles Kite has seen some interesting things and been involved in more than his fair share of legal matters. His infinite wisdom on wills, trusts, powers of attorney, estate planning, and so much more serves his clients well in his close “Of Counsel” relationship with Miser Wealth Partners. Charlie’s experiences throughout his expansive career intertwine to weave quite the fascinating story.
That story began when Charlie was born in an army hospital in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in 1944 at the height of WWII. As a production site for the Manhattan Project, Oak Ridge was bustling with activity at that time. Charlie’s father, Harvey Kite, had a front row seat as a chemist at the Y-12 plant. As Charlie remembers, his father was one of very few people in the city’s history to be interviewed one day and start working on site the next. That was in January 1944 when Harvey was only 22 years old, which he would eventually become the head of research and development division for Y-12.
When Charlie was born, Oak Ridge had quite the different feel than it does today, particularly in the sense that it was nearly triple the population back then.
“It was an interesting place to grow up,” Charlie remembers. “Everybody was from someplace else. It was just a different world. The town had a two-layer fence around it when I was little. To go in and out of town, you had to have a photo ID badge if you were 12 or older. I remember the gates going towards Clinton. Every car had to stop and get inspected going in and out.”
The gates came down in late 1947, but Charlie still remembers them vividly.
Charlie would go on to attend Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia based on his dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon and the school’s top-notch medical program. But after the first year, his father persuaded him to consider other schools due to the expense. Charlie then attended Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City. After graduating, Charlie’s aspirations shifted toward more of a law school route. But things would soon take a bit of a different direction yet again.
At the height of the Vietnam War, Charlie recalls a national shortage of physics teachers. Having graduated Carson-Newman with a major in mathematics and minor in biology, he was able to fill one of those needed positions. After a time in that teaching role, however, the draw to complete law school became undeniable. Charlie subsequently enrolled at the University of Tennessee to answer that call.
After graduating in 1973 and then passing the bar exam, Charlie officially kicked off his law career by joining a firm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There, he remained for several years until a promotion had him packing his bags for Nashville, Tennessee.
After a few more years with that firm, Charlie made another career move and joined a firm called Heiskell Donelson (now Baker Donelson). When the firm eventually decided to open an office in Knoxville in 1983, Charlie took on the job of getting the new location off the ground.
A couple of years later, he was contacted by an executor of an estate in Sevierville who was encountering legal issues surrounding some family disputed land. The executor’s son knew of Charlie through a mutual law school friend, so when the case kept running into roadblocks, Charlie’s name came up as a potential means for help. Charlie agreed to take on the case and won, which soon led to a job offer at another local firm. It was through that firm that Charlie’s first exposure to some very big East Tennessee names came about – Smoky Mountain Knife Works and Dollywood.
In the late 80s, Charlie found himself very involved with some sizable business dealings along with Dolly Parton herself, including all the real estate acquisitions for Dollywood and forming the Dollywood Foundation to combat local high school dropout rates, which were about 33% at the time in Sevier County. Thanks to the foundation, the dropout rate decreased to around 8%.
On the tails of that benevolent program, Dolly hatched an even bigger plan to provide free books to children in Sevier County through her Dollywood Foundation and also in Stone County, Missouri by way of Silver Dollar City (which is owned by Herschend Family Entertainment, joint owners of Dollywood). There was never any question that Charlie would play a major role in this new venture dubbed the Imagination Library.
During Charlie’s time as secretary of the foundation and serving as an original member of the board of directors, the Imagination Library has swelled to encompass all 50 states, six countries, and equating to more than one million free books every month. To this day, Charlie takes pride in being an integral part of such a meaningful program. Dolly has even sought Charlie’s legal help in more personal property matters.
“I’ve been her lawyer since helping get Dollywood and the Imagination Library going,” he said. “I actually won a case for her to help protect her privacy at her private home in Sevierville. A developer claimed that a horse trail that went by her house was a public road. I found the 90-year-old road superintendent for Sevier County from the late 40s and early 50s to testify that it was never a road. We won the case, and Dolly was so happy about that.”
Charlie’s dealings with another East Tennessee staple – Smoky Mountain Knife Works – would provide even more interesting touchpoints for his career.
“I did all the contracts for the movies that they were involved with,” he said. “We did all of the Rambo movies and all the Indiana Jones movies that had a jungle scene in it because that machete that Indiana Jones carried was a Smoky Mountain Knife Works piece. We also did one of the Terminator movies. I did all the contract negotiations for them involving the knives. Those were certainly interesting to deal with.”
The 80s brought forth another interesting project that would cross Charlie’s path with that of Derek Miser’s, who had big dreams of opening a huge music amphitheater in Sevier County.
“I met Derek in 1981. We optioned about 4,500 acres along the French Broad River for Derek to build a music park,” he said. “He was just a young kid putting a tremendous amount of work into this park.”
Throughout the years, the communication lines with Derek remained open and would eventually create a pathway to where Charlie is today – providing valuable direction for clients that often pair perfectly with Derek’s offerings.
“Derek is a financial planner, and a lot of dealings with financial planning that many firms don’t get into is that most of these people not only need financial direction, but they need legal direction as well, such as wills, powers of attorney, and trusts.” Charlie said. “That’s what I do. I’ve been doing it for more than 35 years.”
Charlie takes great pride in helping his clients work through any legality weeds to ensure their hard-earned assets end up exactly where they’re meant to and things don’t get tied up in that dreaded red tape. Charlie reiterates that it’s not as cut and dry as many people may think…especially in the case of some heavy spousal decisions.
“If someone becomes disabled and their spouse doesn’t have power of attorney, they can’t make decisions legally,” he said. “If you get sick and can’t make medical decisions for yourself, a lot of people think your spouse can do it, but that’s not true. They have to have what’s called durable power of attorney, which is different than a regular power of attorney.”
Yet another legal aspect important to many people is ensuring their final wishes are carried out accordingly, which is where Charlie’s expertise on wills comes in very handy.
“A will is important because it lets you give away your assets the way you want to give them away,” he explains. “If you don’t have a will, your assets are going to go to various people in accordance with what the state law says, which may be totally different from what you want.”
With much of Charlie’s work being based out of Tellico Village, he wants residents to know he’s gained specialized experience thanks to similar professional involvement with an even larger planned retirement community called Fairfield Glade outside of Crossville, Tennessee.
“I would say at least 60% of the people in Tellico Village came from another state, much like Fairfield Glade” he said. “A lot of those people have been there for years and need the kind of help we provide at Miser Wealth Partners.”
When Charlie isn’t helping his clients get all their affairs impeccably in order, his time is generally earmarked for his beloved wife, six children, and 19 grandchildren. And it helps that he’s a card-carrying member who can take those grandkids anytime he wants to Dollywood. In fact, his card is labeled #2. The #1 card belongs to a Mr. Carl Dean, Dolly’s husband.
To find out more about how Charlie can help you, call us at (865) 281-1616 or click here to set up a meeting at a time that’s convenient for you.