Nashville airport’s main terminal named to honor engineering alum

The Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority on July 12 will celebrate the completion of the terminal’s phase II renovation and name the main terminal building in memory of Robert C. H. Mathews Jr., the former chairman of the MNAA Board of Commissioners.

Bob Mathews
Robert C. H. Mathews Jr.

Mathews, who graduated from the Vanderbilt School of Engineering in 1951 with a degree in civil engineering, served as volunteer chairman of the MNAA for 22 years. During that time he led the effort to attract the American Airlines hub, expand air service by Southwest Airlines, and secure a nonstop flight to London.

At the time of his death in 2008, Mathews served as chairman of The Mathews Company, and associated companies, including NAI Nashville and R.C. Mathews Contractor. For nearly 60 years he held leadership positions within the company

In 1954 Mathews poured the foundation of L&C Tower, then the tallest building in the Southeast. He developed Metropolitan Industrial Park, the first commercial development in Nashville with restrictive covenants. In 1965, he built the Belle Meade Tower, a 10-story residential high rise across from the Belle Meade Mansion. During the 1970s he co-developed MetroCenter, a 600-acre mixed-use development. In 1980 he turned his attention to downtown. He was responsible for developing One Nashville Place, Commerce Center and the Commerce Street Parking Garage.

As a contractor, Mathews built or renovated a number of Nashville landmarks, including the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, the Ryman Auditorium, the Hermitage Hotel, the Stahlman Building, and Ensworth School.

Mathews served on numerous local, regional and national civic boards. In addition to MNAA, he served on the board of directors of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce for many years and as president in 1976. He also served as chairman of the Long Range Planning Committee for the City of Belle Meade. He was past chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Nashville Branch.

A supporter of many organizations, Mathews was a member of the Urban Land Institute, the Society of Cincinnati, the Society for International Business Fellows, the Land Trust of Tennessee, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Rotary Club of Nashville and the YMCA Foundation. He also served as chairman of the Advisory Council of the Cumberland Valley Girl Scouts. Mathews was a past President of Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Fine Arts Center, Leadership Nashville and Cumberland Science Museum, which is now the Adventure Science Center.