African-American Automobile New Car Dealers


Difference Makers During 1960 - 1990

VIRGIL ANDERSON, hired by Chrysler Corporation in early 1965, was asked to join in the effort to identify qualified minorities, with emphasis on African-Americans who would then be considered for employment by Plymouth-Dodge dealers nationally. Over the next few years, approximately 150 individuals were hired. This action was the first of its kind in any business. Anderson retired from Chrysler in 1982 and became active in working with CMDA. He played a key role as the Executive Director of NAMAD for the period 1983-1990. He also worked for GMMDA as its Executive Director during its formative years (1988-1990).

KEITH BULLARD was appointed the Chrysler-Plymouth dealer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in April, 1978. When the first NAMAD meeting was held (1980), Bullard, along with five other African-American dealers in attendance, established the Chrysler Black Dealer Association. Bullard was elected president and was the lead in meeting with Chrysler executives. He resigned as the C-P dealer in 1984. In September of 1986, Bullard was appointed the LM dealer in Coraopolis, Pa. (Pittsburgh). When the decision was made to close the dealership, he opened a 'Super Used Car' operation which remains highly successful.

ED FITZPATRICK, hired by Chrysler in 1968, was the first African-American to head up Chrysler's minority dealer program (1978). He remained on the job for two years building the foundation for the Chrysler Minority Dealer Program. He subsequently worked for Toyota and Mitsubishi over the next six plus years. But he had the 'retail bug' and was appointed the C-P dealer in Renton, Washington in 1986. Fitzpatrick was the first African-American to receive the Lexus franchise (1999-Modesto, Calif.) and operates a highly successful automotive group of dealerships. He remains active in NAMAD affairs.

JESSE JONES was an individual with considerable entrepreneurial instincts. When he worked for Chrysler (1965-1979), he successfully owned and operated several small businesses; e. g. computer and television repair. He made the decision to leave Chrysler in 1980 and was appointed the Dodge dealer in Ferndale, Michigan. For the next ten years, Jones played a major role in both CBDA, CMDA and NAMAD. He used his dealership as the primary training source for future Chrysler candidates. Upon his death in 1990, his wife, Theresa, became the dealer principal and successfully managed the business. She sold the dealership in 2007.

THOMAS PAPPERT was promoted to the position of Vice President of Sales in 1981. When he reviewed the elements of Chrysler's Minority Dealer Program, he recalls 'there was no direction, no strategy, no program - too many people going off and doing their own thing - it was clear we had lots of work to do." Pappert championed the program believing "it all begins with a handshake". When he retired, the CMDA established a $1 million scholarship fund in his name at his alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh.

LOWELL PERRY was hired by Chrysler in 1963 and one of his first assignments was to seek out minorities, primarily African-Americans, who could be hired by Plymouth-Dodge dealers for sales, service and office management positions. When in 1968, Chrysler decided to activate its own training program, Perry was one of three company representatives to be selected. After training in Newark, New Jersey, he elected to remain with Chrysler in manufacturing. In 1974, he became the first African-American to be appointed a plant manager. For historical reference, it should be noted that Perry was a graduate of the University of Michigan and played one year of pro football with the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 1957, he became the first African-American coach in the modern era when the Steelers named him as their receivers coach. In 1966, he became the first black NFL broadcaster when CBS hired him to do game day analysis.

VERNON SMALL has a 'unique' place in African-American car history. He was a salesperson in 1963 selling Pontiacs in the Boston market. When Chrysler decided to establish its own in-house training program, Small was hired to work with its training department. The year was 1968. Small was active in helping appoint and train African-American dealers nationally. In 1979, Small decided to pursue a retail career and was appointed the Chevrolet-Olds dealer in Mascouth, Illinois. He has been involved with a number of Ford dealerships over the years and is presently a partner in the F-L-M dealership located in Morehead, North Carolina. In total, Small has had 44 years of retail car experience.

Other dealers who were 'active' early in the pioneering process at Chrysler Corporation:

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