In 1953, I attended law school at the University of Colorado in Boulder for just the summer ten-week session. One of my classes was estate planning, and I was dumbfounded that the visiting professor teaching the class was William Bowe, a renowned faculty member of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and, although the name spelling was different, he was the great grandson of James Bowie!
Childhood memories of the legendary Bowie flooded my mind. Good fortune had come my way. I became acquainted with renowned Professor Bowe, both in his stimulating classroom, and personally over coffee at the student union where earlier our wives had met by happenstance and got together quite often for coffee.
Shiny bald head, short of stature, and golden tanned, the genial professor was a delight. Modest about his ancestry, Bowe was an engaging man who shared much with me: from his professorship experiences at Vanderbilt University to his association with the Vanderbilt family serving on a team of experts which did the family’s estate planning. I was awestruck. Proudly he related that his team had developed a most important estate planning tool – the 10-year revocable trust commonly referred to as the Clifford Trust – and, a tool that stood up before the U.S. Supreme Court in a validity test.
In the classroom, Bowe was as delightful as he was over a cup of coffee. His mild manner and soft southern drawl was enchanting, entertaining and captivating. One of his teachings that has stuck with me was his take on placing a value on unusual estate property – whether it had intrinsic or extrinsic value. Bowe related, “When Grandpa Calhoun died, he lovingly left his precious glass eye to his favorite son.” With a winning smile Bowe asked the class, “Now tell me what criteria would you use to value Grandpa’s glass eye?”
Clearly, Bowe endeared himself, time and again, to each one of us with his gentle, fun approach, and we reveled in the presence of one of the great tax experts in the country.
Fifty-six eventful years came and went before memories of my Jim-Bowie-knife days in 1938, and my acquaintance with William Bowe in 1953 were surprisingly rekindled.
In the fall of 2009, Myrna and I vacationed through several southeastern states. In the Smoky Mountains, we drove the scenic Cherohala Skyway from Robbinsville in western North Carolina to Tellico Plains on the east Tennessee border. The skyway is a 43-mile stretch of never-ending curves. The portion called “The Dragon” has 318 curves in a 11-mile stretch. It is known as America’s No. 1 motorcycle and sports car road. The speed limit is set at 45 mph. But with having to pay attention to all the vehicles on the road, the curves, and looking at the scenery, one can only travel about 30 mph. The view of the mountains was breathtakingly beautiful but when we descended down into the valley to Tellico Plains, it was nap time for Myrna and a much needed leg-stretching walk for me.
At the edge of town, I parked our car under a row of shade trees in a large abandoned parking lot. While Myrna napped, I ambled the hundred yards or so to the far corner of the lot where I had spied some men sitting around under an open-sided shelter covered by an old rusty roof.
Next week in Part III, I will tell about the Good Ole Tennessee Boys I met at the shelter.