UT Knoxville, ’76
Charles C. Anderson Jr. is a Florence, Alabama, native who came to UT Knoxville on an athletic scholarship to play football and major in marketing. He was a three-year letterman, got a degree in 1976, and his family moved to Knoxville afterward.
While Knoxville remains home, the family business has taken Anderson, known to many as Charlie, across the country for decades. He’s the third-generation head of a company—Anderson Media—his grandfather founded in 1917 as a newsstand.
Anderson learned the business from his father, who transformed the retail newsstand into next-generation bookstores—first in shopping malls and later into the supercenter chain Books-A-Million. At 14, Anderson worked in a warehouse loading trucks; at 16, he was making deliveries across the Southeast; by 19, he was on the road selling fireworks.
Fast-forward 20 years, and the company that had grown to also include its Anderson Merchandising division, Hibbett’s Sporting Goods and TNT Fireworks became the distributor of recorded music on compact disks and similar physical formats to the entire chain of Wal-Mart stores.
Two decades later, given the evolving music business and growing consumer preference for MP3 files, Anderson Media sold its entertainment distribution division within the past year.
“The retail landscape is changing every day, and it’s a landscape currently in flux,” Anderson says. “We’re in the process of reinventing our company. We have great people who have great knowledge of Wal-Mart, and now, with our merchandising division, we’re representing literally hundreds of brands you see every day on Wal-Mart shelves.”
Despite the demands of running the family business, Anderson gives extensive time and resources to the university he says “keeps me in Knoxville—with my love and allegiance to that university.”
He began serving on the UT Board of Trustees in 2007 and on the UT Knoxville athletics board in 2003. A generous gift from Anderson and his wife, Moll, established the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Moll Anderson Scholarship—an endowed scholarship for single parents. A gift from the couple also marked a significant investment in the state-of-the-art Anderson Training Center for the Vols football program.
Part of the Tennessee Alumnus‘ 100 Distinguished Alumni feature.