Photo: Standing in the Nacogdoches Transmission Service shop are from left, James and Brenda Kittrell, Byron, Dorothy and Jack Porterfield.
(photo by Kelly Daniel)
Getting it right the first time
Byron Porterfield opened Nacogdoches Transmission Service in 1966 with the same philosophy that his son, daughter and son-in-law operate the business with today - “do it right the first time.”
The business’s original location on south Pecan St. was next door to the family home. Byron operated an auto tow service before starting the transmission service business. Towing was offered to the transmission service customers until state regulations changed within the last five years, making the tow service cost prohibitive. One of the first customers that kept transmission service steady was the City’s Sanitation Department.
Son Jack was about 12 years old when he began working in the shop. Jack said, “Dad would be at the shop when I went to bed, and he was there when I woke up in the morning. I did wonder sometimes if he got any sleep at all.”
In 1981 daughter Brenda began tearing down and rebuilding the TH350 and TH200 general motor transmissions. She later “helped mom with the books,” and she continues to keep books, provide customer service and other various jobs that come with owning your own business.
Brenda’s husband James Kittrell joined the team in 1984 and handles most of the rebuilding jobs.
“Everything should be my own,” is the reason Byron said led him into opening Nacogdoches Transmission Service. Jack followed up on that with, “he doesn’t want anyone telling him what to do.”
In 1988, after a fire destroyed the original building, Byron secured a loan with Commercial Bank of Texas. “Gean Hale was my coach in school, and he was my banker at CBTx,” Byron said.
Dorothy said that it was with Hale’s encouragement that the family decided to build the new shop that is Nacogdoches Transmission Service at 2209 S. University Dr.
“We’ve had the privilege of working with the Porterfield family since 1978, and we consider Nacogdoches Transmission a vital part of the CBTx family,” said Linda Gilcrease, Vice President, Customer Service Coordinator. “The Porterfields display an entrepreneurial spirit that values working hard to get the job done, staying true to your word, supporting each other and growing the community. We consider it an honor to work with a family whose Texas-style spirit aligns so perfectly with ours.”
Staying on top of the industry’s technological advances by investing in the latest diagnostic tools and attending annual seminars keeps customers happy. “Our membership with the Automatic Transmission Service Group (ATSG) keeps us connected to the manufacturers and the new cars coming off the line,” Jack said. “All the mechanics are certified by National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).”
Working on anything with an engine seems to be Byron’s life-long passion. For 18 months he worked as a mechanic, serving in the National Guard during the Berlin Crisis while stationed in Kentucky and Missouri. After servicing the military’s vehicles, he worked on officers’ cars at night. He continues to work on his personal car collection at home that includes a ’53 Plymouth and ’51 Ford.
Brenda and Jack may have learned much from their parents while working in the business, but their children had different experiences with Dorothy and Byron as they grew up in Nacogdoches. For vacationing with the grandchildren, Byron modified a Stephen F. Austin band bus with bunk beds, a couch and other features that made it a perfect vehicle for adventure while traveling through most of the United States.
The family’s roots are deep in Nacogdoches. Byron was six years old when his family moved from Panola County, but Dorothy’s family goes back nine generations.
As business owners, the family has watched the community change during the past four decades. “Things went well in the 90s,” James said. “Business really changed after the twin towers went down on September 2001. That affected our local economy.”
The Porterfields would like to see Nacogdoches continue to attract business that offer “good paying jobs” and raise the median household income. Jack sees higher salaries provide support for families so they are able to stay in Nacogdoches and support family-owned businesses like theirs.
The Porterfields are members of the Stallings Drive Church of Christ, and James serves as a deacon in that church. Byron served as a leader in the Boy Scouts of America and Dorothy was a den mother.
“For more than 45 years, they have proven commitment to family and community will ultimately lead to success,” Gilcrease said.
The family looks forward to the future and the next generation with Dorothy and Byron’s great granddaughter and just recently announced - another great granddaughter, soon to come in October.