Calvin LeHew Bio
Early Years: Calvin LeHew was born above his family’s small country store in Hillsboro, Tennessee on July 15, 1939 to Leola and Alton (A.C.) LeHew. He has an older sister, Jane, and a twin sister, Barbara. From an early age, Calvin’s parents taught him the value of hard work and strong community as he and his two sisters walked to school and the Methodist church where his family regularly attended. His father, a respected businessman who also ran a lumber mill and later on, a gas station, taught Calvin through example how to be an entrepreneur. His parents were well respected in the small village of Hillsboro, now known as Leiper’s Fork, and participated in Al Gore Senior’s election to the senate. Consequently, it was Mrs. Gore who took Calvin under her wing when both of his parents died of cancer when he was a teenager.
In 1956, Mrs. Gore offered Calvin a job as a page in the U. S. Senate and he left his quaint village for the big city and bright lights of Washington D. C. LeHew recalls his duty as a page as being one of the most exciting times of his life. “I got to meet some of the giants of the world like Nikita Khrushchev. And I worked with three presidents—Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon—on a personal and daily basis before they became presidents. Being at the inauguration of J.F.K. and sitting behind Robert Frost and beside Bat Masterson was truly amazing.” Calvin also played the role of babysitter to future Vice President Al Gore when his parents were out of town.
It was during this time that Calvin was first introduced to a way of thinking that would influence the rest of his life. He read Norman Vincent Peale’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking. From Peale he learned that “what you think about, you bring about.” Soon after, when Calvin was a senior at UT, a fraternity brother gave him a 78 r.p.m. called Lead the Field by Earle Nightingale, which further reinforced the positive messages that he’d learned from Norman Vincent Peale. “You become what you think about,” Calvin says. “It echoed what I’d learned in church as a boy. In Proverbs it says, ‘Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.’”
Career Choices: Calvin began at once to put these newfound principles into practice. He set a personal goal of becoming a millionaire by age thirty-five. He started the process after college when he and a friend opened up a discount drugstore in Tallahassee, Florida. “I tried to do this without fear or seeing any of the negatives,” he says. With the success of the first store, Calvin and his partner began a chain of stores throughout the Southeast.
Calvin eventually sold his interest in the drugstores, moved back to Tennessee and started his own construction company. By the age of thirty-three, he had realized his original goal of becoming a millionaire—two years ahead of time. But being a millionaire wasn’t all he had imagined. “It was one of the most disappointing days of my life,” he remembers. Yet, the principles that got him to his goal excited him. Calvin thought, “Wow, this stuff works!”
With this boost of confidence, he began one of the most difficult projects of his life—to revitalize the city of Franklin, Tennessee. He conceived, designed, and built Carter’s Court, an award-winning specialty center of twenty-five unique shops. Calvin worked through great financial and logistical adversities to make Carter’s Court the seventh largest tourist attraction in Tennessee. “Here’s where the law of attraction comes in,” he says, “If you’ve got a problem, but have faith, and believe in it, the right solutions start showing up.”
With the success and subsequent sale of Carter’s Court, Calvin and his wife, Marilyn, moved to California to study the principles of success at the Science of Mind church. While there, he co-starred with Della Reese and Robert Stack in the award-winning television documentary, “How to Change Your Life.” He also began touring as a motivational speaker. But Calvin could not forget his roots and after two years in California, a deal that was too good to pass up brought him home again.
Calvin purchased seven buildings in Franklin, Tennessee, and along with a few friends who shared his vision, began the task of revitalizing the downtown area. To kick start the effort, he and Marilyn opened Choices Restaurant. Calvin’s vision has been realized and the once dying downtown of Franklin has been transformed into what it is today—the Main Street Capital of the Southeast.
Calvin often sees the value in things that have stood the test of time—like the Natchez Trace Parkway, which was originally the Natchez Trail, a footpath used by early Native Americans. He was a key player in turning it into a national parkway, serving on the board of directors for twenty-five years and acting as president of the three-state organization, The Natchez Trace Parkway Association.
His most recent real estate project involved renovating a condemned stove factory. Calvin not only saved the enormous and decaying 1929 buildings, but also renovated them into an eclectic center of creativity containing spaces for retail, dining, learning, entertainment and offices. Now known as The Factory at Franklin, it is a main attraction, drawing locals as well as tourists.
Current Goal: Pilot, entrepreneur, real estate developer, visionary, community leader, animal rights advocate, spiritual seeker, author and lecturer—Calvin LeHew has lived a very full life. His dream now is to share what he’s learned with others. His latest book, Flying High, chronicles his life as seen through the eyes of a younger dreamer, Stowe D. Shockey. From him, she learns the power of our thoughts. When asked what he wants the book to convey, Calvin says, “It all goes back to one thing—thinking. The Bible says, ‘As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ That’s the bottom line of success.”