Steve McMahan: A legacy of hard work

Sandra ClarkHalls, Our Town Stories, Union

The Halls community lost a builder, developer and visionary with the death of Stephen V. McMahan on March 3, 2022. Steve, 70, had struggled with cancer for seven years.

The homes, subdivisions, commercial properties and apartments that he built are integral to Halls and will endure. So will the family that Steve and Beverly built and sustained.

Steve McMahan on the farm. (Photo by GypsySoul)

Best Stories: Steve was just 17 when he built his first house, on Rollins Road in Halls Heights. Seems he and Beverly VanDeGriff had slipped off and got married after their junior year at Halls High School. They lived in that house after their graduation. Steve, who learned building from his dad, Earl McMahan, said he had “been working since I was born.”

The marriage got off to a rocky financial start, Steve said in a 2004 interview with this writer. “It was a stock market thing.”

The “stock” was hogs. Steve had been buying and selling for a while, maybe since middle school, and had made some money. But he lost it all one day at the stockyard. In the confusion of bidding on a truckload of pigs, Steve didn’t notice when they switched from “by the head” to “by the pound.” He won the bid but had to borrow money from his dad to complete the sale.

“We paid on his pigs for years,” Beverly said.

Career: Steve and Beverly were true partners, working together on each house. Beverly laughs when recalling the early days. “They all had a style – Earl McMahan, Joe Ridenour, Tim Waller’s dad, Bob Temple.”

Halls was a wild frontier for developers in the 1950s and ’60s. Maynardville Pike had two lanes, retail was sparse and surrounding land was divided into large tracts for farming. Savings and loan associations like Home Federal made low-interest loans and young couples like Steve and Beverly McMahan could earn a good living with hard work and risk-taking.

Beverly remembers houses built in Fountaingate and Mont Richér, developed by Keith and Doyle Walker; houses built in Royal Springs, Overlook Estates and Carrington Place. She remembers custom-built homes in Gracemont, Wallace Hills and North Buckingham; and later in Shadow Creek and on Brushy Valley Road.

Developments by the McMahans include Garfield Estates, Hidden View Estates, Logan’s Landing, Union Court in Maynardville, Griffith Place, North Pointe, Mathews Place condos, and Sonlight Way, a church and 40 units of senior housing on Rifle Range Road.

A commercial center on Emory Road was named for grandson Colton. Logan’s Landing, off Rifle Range, was named for grandson Logan.

“We had fun,” Beverly said, recalling a client who asked for a custom-spec house. He had allergies and wanted to test different materials. After the house was built, he sat in the floor for a day. If he started sneezing, the McMahans would put the house on the market and build him another custom-spec.

In that 2004 interview, Steve McMahan spoke of the development potential of Union County. He called Halls “a cove between two ridges,” and said land in Union County was both plentiful and flat. Grandson Luke Parris is building homes now, through his own company, based in Union County.

Steve and Beverly McMahan on the cover of a publication in 2004.

Family: Steve and Beverly McMahan had three children: Jason (Judy) McMahan, Erin (Jeff) Sohm and Leah (Bobby) Edmondson; eight grandchildren: Logan (Morgan) McMahan, Colton and Brett McMahan; Cody (James) Eggert, Kala and Leah Sohm, Luke and Jake Parris; and one great-grandson, Earl Eggert, named for his great, great-grandfather.

Jason sells real estate through the family business, Crossroads Realty. Erin is a registered nurse. Leah owns and operates GypsySoul Photography & Salon.

Steve McMahan loved to spend time in the woods hunting, working on the cattle farm, spending time with his grandchildren and joking in his own mischievous and loving way, the family wrote in his obituary. He requested no services and his ashes will be spread on his cattle farm in Union County – a place where he found peace after decades of hard work.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.

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