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Posted: 4:05 p.m. Monday, Dec. 30, 2013

William M. 'Whit' Whitmire Jr., 88: Sold first car at 16

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William M. “Whit” Whitmire Jr., 88: Sold first car at 16 photo
William M. “Whit” Whitmire Jr.
William M. “Whit” Whitmire Jr., 88: Sold first car at 16 photo
William M. “Whit” Whitmire Jr.

By Michelle E. Shaw

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

From childhood, William “Whit” Whitmire had the spirit of a salesman. So it is no wonder that he experienced great success when he merged his natural penchant for sales and his love of automobiles.

Whitmire, who founded Global Imports in the 1960s, grew up in Carnesville during the Depression. His experiences during that time taught him lessons about commerce and hard work, said his wife, the Rev. Linda S. Whitmire, of Sandy Springs.

“He told me he would walk to the country store, which was a couple of miles, and buy six Coca-Colas for 25 cents,” she said. “Then he’d walk back, and sell them for five cents each, and he’d make a nickel.”

After saving his money for three years, a 16-year-old Whit Whitmire had enough money to buy a 1929 black Model A Ford. He paid $15 for it, and six months later he sold it for $25. That was the first of many car sales to come, his wife said.

William Morris Whitmire Jr. of Sandy Springs died Thursday of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 88. A private family burial, with full military honors, was held Sunday. A memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. Sunday at Sandy Springs Christian Church, Sandy Springs. Cremation Society of Georgia was in charge of arrangements.

Whitmire was a sophomore at Tech High in Atlanta when World War II began. His senior year, he graduated early and joined the Navy, his wife said. After his military service, Whitmire decided to begin his career in the automotive business. He started selling auto parts in 1951, and 12 years later a Saab dealership became his first automobile franchise. He eventually owned a number of dealerships including BMW, Honda and Saturn. Though he never officially retired, Whitmire sold Global in the late 1990s. He ran his Saturn dealerships until General Motors discontinued the car division in 2010.

“He read everything he could get his hands on, especially when it came to cars,” his wife said. “That was how he educated himself. He really did things his way and he had a great deal of confidence in the way he did things.”

Buck Woodruff, a friend and former business partner, said Whitmire’s knowledge extended far beyond cars. He taught business and life lessons.

“He was an honorable man who accomplished a lot in a very quiet manor,” Woodruff said. “He was a very dependable friend and mentor to me.”

One of the long-lasting lessons Whitmire taught was how to treat people, Woodruff said. It was a lesson Whitmire lived, said his son Scott Whitmire, of Sandy Springs.

“It was an understood rule that you treat everyone with respect,” Whitmire said of his father. “And that was from when I was 5 years old and went to work with him. I started learning the way he conducted business way back then.”

Whit Whitmire also taught his children about cars. There were a few standing rules, including cars should always be clean and there should always be at least a quarter tank of gas in the car.

“He was very particular about that kind of thing,” his wife said, with a light laugh.

In addition to his wife and son, Whitmire is survived by his children, Susan Ott of Sandy Springs, Dean Whitmire of Marietta, Dana Fortner of Thomasville, and Stan Whitmire of Monroe; brother, Dan Whitmire of Tucker; fourteen grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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