Autry O.V. "Pete" DeBusk

2017 East Tennessean of the Year

The East Tennessee Historical Society was proud to honor businessman and philanthropist Autry O.V. “Pete” DeBusk as its 2017 East Tennessean of the Year. DeBusk’s impact on East Tennessee can be seen in his successes at DeRoyal and Lincoln Memorial University (LMU). As founder, owner, and chairman of DeRoyal, he expanded his business from a single room in Fountain City to manufacturing plants across Tennessee, Virginia, and abroad, leading the healthcare industry in innovation ranging from products to services. As chairman of the board of trustees at LMU, DeBusk has spear-headed numerous projects including the DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine, DeBusk Veterinary Teaching Center, and the Duncan College of Law.  

DeBusk’s roots are on a farm in the mountains of Lee County, Virginia, where his father worked away as a construction worker and sometimes as a coal miner, and he and his mother ran their farm. After graduating from Thomas Walker High School in Rose Hill, Virginia, DeBusk attended LMU, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Biology.

DeBusk began his career in 1965 as a pharmaceutical salesman for Hoechst Laboratories. In 1969, he joined Solar Laboratories as a regional sales manager. His education and experience led him to develop his first company, Pete DeBusk and Associates in 1970, and in 1973, DeBusk patented his first orthopedic product and founded STAT Medical. In 1976, DeRoyal Industries, Inc. was incorporated. Since that time, DeRoyal has grown to more than 2,000 employees and now manufactures more than 30,000 different medical and surgical supplies.

In addition to serving as chairman of the LMU Board of Trustees, DeBusk helped establish the Halls/Powell Boys and Girls Club. He has received a number of awards and honors, including two honorary doctorate degrees from LMU and another honorary doctorate from the International Hall of Fame.