Steven Chancellor enters the lobby quietly, his jeans perfectly pressed, his back straight as an arrow. It’s a Friday on a recent April afternoon, and this time, he’s not in Washington, D.C., “trying to manage the characters that are up there,” he laughs. No. Today he’s in Evansville, in the headquarters of the American Patriot Group; in the building many people think looks like the White House. And on this day, he’s agreed to talk about one of his favorite subjects: his love for the United States.
“I consider myself a patriot of the highest order,” he says while sitting behind the desk he designed himself, on the second floor of the structure on N. Cross Pointe Boulevard. Fox News is flickering silently nearby. A painting of his wife, Terri, hangs on the wall to his left. ‘’Love of country, love of God – that was instilled in me for as long as I can remember,” he says.
He remembers a lot. And he knows he’s in a unique position – first because he’s the only male in his family to have lived past age 30, and second because of what he’s become. Chancellor is the chairman of the American Patriot Group, the parent company of AmeriQual Group LLC, which supplies Meals, Ready-to-Eat (also known as MREs) to the U.S. Department of Defense and numerous other companies in multiple sectors. Previously, he was the president, CEO, and chairman of Black Beauty Coal Co., before he sold his remaining interest in the company to Peabody Energy in April 2003. Before that, he spent more than 10 years in the finance industry, becoming the assistant vice president of CrediThrift. And long before that, he was just a 16-year-old truck driver, getting a feel for his first job.
Chancellor was born in Evansville, but he moved to Elberfeld, a small town in northern Warrick County, after the fifth grade. He grew up in a 700-to 800-square-foot house, in what he describes as a “very, very modest family,” and he had to pay for everything – his first car (a black 1956 Ford), as well as his own way through the University of Evansville.
“That was certainly one of my greater honors,” he says, referring to the work he put into paying for everything he achieved. “I have little patience when I hear people complain because their childhood was too difficult. We didn’t have much money. My grandfather had an eighth-grade education, but he taught me to read and write before I went to school. Everyone in my childhood encouraged me.”
Chancellor grew up surrounded by relatives who lived through the Depression. Instead of aunts and uncles, he had great-aunts and great-uncles. And he spent much of his life around women. He credits his mother and grandmothers, in fact, for his early sense of patriotism and love of God and family. Even now, Chancellor is quick to draw connections between his work ethic and his allegiance to the United States.
“To be dedicated to your career requires a total commitment,” he says. “To be dedicated to your country requires a total commitment.”
That commitment extends to political involvement, as well. He says he expects his fellow citizens to educate themselves about the issues and the candidates, and to vote to express their views.
“If you really love your country, complaining about it doesn’t really accomplish much,” Chancellor says. “Each person has something to offer. I have been extremely involved in my government from when I was a young man.”
He’s also long been active in political fundraisers. Most recently, Chancellor held a fundraiser for Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential candidate. Chancellor included the U.S. Equestrian Team at the fundraiser to give its members a chance to learn more about their government. He has held fundraisers for the Republican National Committee, the House and Senate Republican Committees, and many candidates, some in both parties. He is also a friend of former President George H.W. Bush, former Vice President Dan Quayle, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, former U.S. Senators Evan Bayh and Dick Lugar, U.S. Senators Dan Coats and Joe Donnelly, Speaker of the House John Boehner, Governor Mike Pence, former Governor Mitch Daniels, and now-deceased Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf.
But not everything is about politics. Chancellor is Catholic, and he and his family are very supportive of the Catholic Diocese of Evansville, Resurrection Catholic School and Church, and Mater Dei High School. He also has helped raise money to build the Chancellor Center for Oncology at Deaconess Hospital. Terri announced that project as part of a Valentine’s Day gift. Chancellor says Terri is a very giving person.
“She never thinks of herself,” he says. “She’s always doing things for other people. Terri is an incredible daughter, an incredible mother, an incredible wife. She is the best person I know.”
The Chancellors have five daughters: Hunter, 17, Ashley, Stephanie, Julie, and Tannya; two sons, Shane and Dan; 15 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. He is especially proud of his daughter, Hunter, who represented her country as part of the U.S. Equestrian Team. The team won double gold medals at the World Cup in South Africa in December 2012.
Chancellor’s children are a constant presence in his office. A framed photograph of Hunter and Terri sits on his desk; other photographs of his children are propped on the shelf behind him. Meanwhile, other paintings and fixtures are spread throughout the American Patriot Group building, which has two wings jutting out on either side of the black-and-white marbled lobby. While many people assume the building is meant to look like the White House, Chancellor explains it is actually a close approximation to the Lincoln Memorial. Not that that was his first choice. Chancellor intended to construct a building that replicated the Jefferson Memorial, but architecturally, the design was too problematic. Now, it’s more accurate to say the structure is like the Lincoln Memorial with a rotunda, he says. The building was designed by Jack Faber at Hafer Associates.
Having to change the design wasn’t too disappointing, however. “Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln are the foundation of what I believe,” Chancellor says. “I consider myself to be an American first and a party affiliate second.”
That sentiment is distributed through-out the American Patriot building, which has framed replicas of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution on the wall in the lobby, as well as paintings of the U.S. Capitol Building, the Lincoln Memorial, and the White House on the same floor as Chancellor’s office. The building also contains paintings of wildlife, horses, and dogs. Chancellor is a world-class big game hunter, animal lover, and strong conservationist. A statue of an eagle that is holding the Declaration of Independence and the 13 arrows of the 13 states sits on the table in the lobby that overlooks a patio, lake, and a continuously spurting fountain. The eagle has 13 arrows that protect U.S. freedoms, and Chancellor described it as, “a perfect piece for us.”
The unique limited edition bronze eagle sculpture was created by the artist Lorenzo Ghiglieri. Chancellor purchased this masterpiece from an auction through the Weatherby Foundation. A selection of limited-edition bronze sculptures is set aside specifically for placement in fundraising auction events to help raise money for nonprofit organizations such as the American Red Cross, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The program contributes millions of dollars each year to worthy causes and introduces the world of fine art collecting to scores of new patrons, Chancellor says. He adds that as soon as he saw the piece, he knew it belonged in his lobby.
Also on the table with the eagle is a book about the United States Military Academy at West Point. Chancellor doesn’t have any personal connection with the academy. The fourth generation of only sons, he’s part of a “pretty narrow tree.” Yet his genealogy goes back to George Washington, he says. And he’s had ancestors fight in virtually every war.
“I thank God for my greatest gifts: my wife, Terri, my children, my love of God, my country, and the freedom that we, as Americans, enjoy,” Chancellor says. “We Americans are the most fortunate people in the world.”
Source: Evansville Living