Former ALTA President Passes Away

October 3, 2017

Past ALTA President Charles O. Hon III, a man noted for his keen intellect, compassion for others and once bringing 10 ties to an ALTA Board of Governors meeting, passed away Sept. 28 at the age of 73. Hon served as ALTA’s 1988-1989 president.

Hon graduated from Vanderbilt University, where he met his future wife, Emily Ann Eliot, during the first week of school at freshman orientation. He earned his law degree in 1970 from Cumberland School of Law. After passing the Tennessee bar exam, Hon started working for his father at The Title Guaranty and Trust Company of Chattanooga. He worked at the title company until his death. Hon was the great-grandson of the founder and served as the sixth president of Title Guaranty and Trust, which opened its doors in 1890. Title Guaranty was the first title insurance company south of the Mason-Dixon line. Hon valued the local service his company provided.

“This makes us special in two important ways,” Hon stated on the company’s website.  “First, it enables us to make decisions locally on what or how to insure, whereas at other companies the decisions are made out-of-town and usually out-of-state without that personal feel of the people or property involved.  Second, and perhaps most importantly, it keeps the premium dollars in Chattanooga. They become part of the economy, rather than going to a corporation in some other city.”

In the November/December 1998 edition of TitleNews, Hon said two of his role models were Jim Boren and his father, Charles Hon, Jr. He respected Boren, a fellow Tennessean and 1980-1981 ALTA president, for his honesty and commitment to the industry. Hon admired his father for a strong work ethic.

“My father taught me not to take any shortcuts in the title business,” Hon once said. “He taught me the value of the moral obligation of providing people with the services they intended to receive and not necessarily what they ordered.”

Hon had the distinction of serving as ALTA president during the San Francisco Earthquake of 1989.

“As a past president, you look forward to your convention, and it was shame that his ended the way it did,” said Mike Currier, who was the 1994-1995 ALTA president and served on the Board with Hon.

“Charlie was a dear friend who had an outstanding sense of humor, but at the same time he was very intelligent,” Currier said. “He was excellent in board meetings, thinking through problems and articulating what he thought.”

Highlighting Hon’s quick mind, Currier recalled a trip with he and his wife and daughter, Missy, took with Hon and his wife to Sea World.

“Our daughter was crawling over some chairs and fell and hit her head on the pavement,” Currier said. “We rushed to the first-aid stand and the nurse on duty walked in and gruffly asked who we were and what was wrong. After my wife and I told her who we were, Charlie said he was our attorney. After that, the nurse became sweet as could be and took care of us.”

Parker Kennedy, who served as ALTA’s 1993-1994 president, enjoyed spending time with Hon and his wife at the Annual Conventions. Kennedy recalled a Board of Governors meeting during Hon’s presidency.

“We had a Board meeting at a resort in Northern California and I forgot my tie,” Kennedy said. “I asked to borrow one of Charlie’s and he gave me a choice among 10 ties. For years, he needled me for not bringing a tie and I needled him for bringing so many. Charlie was a great guy in every way.”

In addition to serving the industry at the national level, Hon was active at the state level as well. He served as president of the Tennessee Land Title Association (TLTA) in 1979-1980. He was later honored as an honorary member of TLTA. Hon also was named by the Tennessee Commissioner of Insurance to serve on a Blue Ribbon Committee to rewrite the title insurance law for the state.

“We fellow TLTA members are saddened to hear of Charlie’s passing,” said Kelley Hinsley, a past TLTA president and founder of Heartland Title Services in Morristown, Tenn. “He was known by his larger than life commitment to friends and family, his defense and promotion of those of us whose business and profession were derived from title insurance and his direct, no-frills approach to addressing issues important industry issues. Charlie was a bear of a man with a keen intellect, confident boldness and as well as a profound compassion for his fellow man. His presence and wise counsel will be missed, as will his gregarious smile and joyful fellowship. Hail and farewell, Charlie.” 

Click here to read Hon’s full obituary, which he wrote himself.


Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or communications@alta.org.

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