Once or twice a week, you’ll find Carl Levi eating lunch with other military retirees at Wally’s, a historic Chattanooga diner, at a table reserved for him – the “General’s Table,” marked by a Tennessee-shaped plaque.
A 64-year member of The American Legion, Levi is one of the state’s most beloved veterans. He entered the Army as a private in 1952 and retired as a brigadier general from the Tennessee National Guard 35 years later. Chattanooga’s National Guard armory drill hall is named for him.
He spent decades in public service, too, as assistant city treasurer for 17 years and treasurer for 25 years. After retiring, he was elected to two terms as a Hamilton County trustee.
In 1954, Levi applied for his education benefits, and a service officer told him he should join The American Legion. “I said, ‘Why should I?’ And he said, ‘Well, they got you the GI Bill,” Levi recalls. At the time, he was playing in a band with a fellow veteran, who told about the local Legion post’s drum and bugle corps. He was sold.
Levi served 20 years as commander of Chattanooga American Legion Post 14, where he became close friends with Medal of Honor recipients Charles Coolidge and Desmond Doss. Levi gave the eulogy at Doss’ funeral in 2006.
“I’ve been a very fortunate person,” he says. “I served my country, I enjoyed it, and I’ve enjoyed The American Legion. It’s been a wonderful thing for me.”