African-American Automobile New Car Dealers

The Pioneers

The Women

Barbara Wilson
Jackie Edgar

During the research process, it was important to note that many African-American women were also challenged by the retail car business and sought careers as dealers. More than 50 African-American women, during the period beginning in 1970, pursued dealership opportunities.

At one point in the late 1980's, there were approximately 10 black women dealers in business which represented 10 per cent of the total 'active' women principals actually operating a dealership on a day-to-day basis. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, the majority of black women have not achieved lasting success and only a handful remain active in the retail car business today.

Black women were not only faced with the 'race' factor, but the 'sexist' issue as well. The retail car business is predominantly white and male and ethnic minority males have had a difficult time finding retail opportunities. One can just imagine the difficulties faced by African-American women. But undeterred, many have made the effort.

Listed below, by manufacturer and in alphabetical order, are those African-American women who were active new car dealers at some point in time. This listing represents approximately 90% of those who sought business success in the retail car business.

African-American Women
Who were appointed dealers

(By Manufacturer in alphabetical order)

Ellenae Hart-Fairhurst1988 Fayetteville, N. C.
Theresa Jones 1990 Ferndale, Michigan
Shirley Moore 1988 Barrington, Illinois
Erma Arnold 1986 Waynesboro, Va.
Angie Brown * Ottawa, Illinois
Marion Cheathum 1991Moultrie, Georgia
Lisa Dubriel 2005 Palo Alto, Ca.
Jackie Edgar 1985 Breaux Bridge, La.
Janice Ford 1994 Fairborn, Ohio
Saundra Grimes 1992 Freeport, Illinois
Carol Hayden 1988 Richland, Washington
Gayle Hill 2004 Amherst, N. Y.
Clarice Hobgood 1991 Wichita Falls, Texas
Hester Johnson * Charlotte, N. C.
Veronica Jones 1990 Yakima, Washington
Marie Woodruff-Jordan 2001 Clio, Michigan
Silverenia Kanoyton 1986 Taft, California
Clarice McGrath 1986 Ft. Dodge, Iowa
Mae McNair 1991 Cheraw, S. C.
Marsha Phelps 1991 Gainsville, Texas
Colleen Robinson 1992 DuQuoin, Illinois
Pam Rodgers 1991 Flint, Michigan
Debra Sims 1990 Douglas, Arizona
Sandra Smith 1988 Smithsboro, Georgia
Grace Tate 2000 Brockport, N. Y.
Anita Spivey 1991 Landmark, Illinois
Jackie Edgar 1983 Jeanerette, La.
Lillie Biagas 2001 Jenkintown, Pa
Juanita Bradley 1993 Ann Arbor, Michigan
Peggy Cockerham 1992 Morrow, Georgia
Toni Frink 1986 Delaware, Ohio
Gladys Humes 1997 Decatur, Illinois
Denise Jones 2006 Sarasota Springs, N. Y.
Pam Rodgers 1993 Woodhaven, Michigan
Norma/Jenell Ross 1997 Brunswick, Ohio
Shelia Smith * Henderson, Texas
Rhonda Welburn1990 Royal Oak, Mich.
Barbara Wilson (Mazda) 1979 Detroit, Mich.
Juanita Baranco (Acura)* Lilburn, Georgia
Ellenae Hart-Fairhurst (Infiniti)1992 Huntsville, Ala.
Jan Richardson (Jaguar) 2004 Spokane, Washington
Barbara Wilson (Honda) 1979 Ferndale, Mich.

* No specific "start" date was determined.

List represents approximately 90% of African-American women who were either franchised or assumed role of "dealers" since 1983.

The First

There were two African-American women who should receive special recognition for their pioneering efforts. They are:


Barbara Wilson
(1979 Ferndale, MI - Honda)

Barbara Wilson

After graduating from Prairie View A & M University in Texas, she moved to Detroit in 1962 where she met her husband, Porterfield, who was in the used car business. He was appointed the Pontiac dealer in Detroit in December, 1970.

At that time, she was working in the accounting department of GM. But with the acquisition of Pontiac, the decision was made for her to join her husband and learn the business the 'old fashioned way, by doing it" - - doing anything and everything to make the business successful.

During this period, they acquired GMC Truck. In March of 1979, the Wilson's, were approached by Honda to be their dealer in Ferndale which they accepted. Barbara Wilson was shown as the President and Dealer Operator on the sales and service agreement along with her husband as dealer principals. She managed the business on a day to day basis.

When Porterfield died in 1989, the Pontiac dealership was closed, and Barbara devoted her full attention to successfully managing Ferndale Honda which she did until 1996. History will record Barbara Wilson as the first African-American woman to appear as a dealer principle in the automotive retail business.


Jackie Edgar
(1983 Jeanerette, LA - Chevrolet)

Jackie Edgar

Born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, Jacqueline Edgar, known as "Miss Jackie" to all, never thought she would one day become a successful owner of a new car dealership. Being black and female, "it just wouldn't happen".

Although she had a job in a local grocery store, she made the decision to become a salesperson believing she had the talent to sell cars and make a good living to support her family. The Lincoln-Mercury dealer in New Ibernia provided her that opportunity (1974) and eventually she became a top salesperson.

In 1977, she joined J. P. Thibodeau Honda-Cadillac. Because of her strong sales abilities, he suggested she join GM's Training Program. She declined because it would have represented a cut in pay which she could not afford. For the next several years, she stayed in the car business absorbing all she could about managing the 'business'.

In 1982, she was approached by GM to determine her interest in becoming the Chevrolet dealer in Jeanerette. Although losing money, it was believed that her knowledge of the market (only nine miles from her home) and selling talents, she could turn the operation into a profit.

After much negotiation, she made an offer which was accepted and history was made. She was the first African-American woman to be the sole owner of a new car dealership. Another historical event occurred.

In 1985, she was contacted by Ford's New Orleans office about a possible interest in the Ford dealership in Breaux Bridge, a bigger opportunity. She was, and under Ford's Dealer Development Plan, she invested $50,000 in 1986 and now owned two domestic dealerships.

After two years, she sold the Chevrolet dealership and focused her total energies on the Ford business. In 1995, she secured an RV line and opened a separate RV/Truck operation which has been highly successful. She remains in the retail business today. Jacqueline "Miss Jackie" Edgar demonstrated that neither color nor sex is a factor in being a successful entrepreneur.

Back to top of page ^