Tipton Ford named Large Business of the Year 2011
By Bruce R. Partain
President/CEO, Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce
The Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce has named Tipton Ford as the 2011 Large Business of the Year. The award is one of three Gary Justice Business Excellence Awards given annually by the chamber. Tipton will be recognized at the Chamber’s 90th Annual Meeting and Membership Banquet presented by Andrews & Andrews Attorneys at Law, Tuesday, Sep. 27, 6 p.m. in the SFA Grand Ballroom.
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The Tipton family has a rich history in Nacogdoches.
James Tipton made his mark by establishing Tipton Ford here in 1959.
“My father's family was originally from Pineland, Texas,” recalled his daughter, Nancy Tipton.
“My grandfather, James Arnold Tipton, Sr., worked for one of the large timber companies there and was tragically killed in a work-related accident when Daddy was three years old,” Nancy said. “My grandmother, Maude Maximillian Tipton, moved her five children to Nacogdoches when my father was about 13 years old. Grandmother was postmaster of SFA Station for over 30 years.
“Dad attended the Nacogdoches Demonstration School, graduated in 1938, then attended SFA, receiving his B.S. in Business Administration in 1942.”
Upon graduating, James A. Tipton, Jr., became a Marine and rose to the rank of captain. Discharged in 1946, he studied architecture at the University of Texas, left school and moved to Dallas to work for Standard Finance. He was transferred to Beaumont, then worked for Dahl Motor Company. He married Dorothy Smither, in 1950. Jimmy was born in 1952 and Nancy came along in 1954. James began referring to himself as James Sr. and Jimmy as James Jr.
In 1956, Tipton purchased an Edsel dealership in Orange, Texas. “The Edsel business failed and we moved back to Beaumont a year later,” Nancy said. Tipton looked for another dealership to buy. It was likely that contacts in Nacogdoches told him that Mrs. Milton Gray was selling her husband's Ford dealership on West Main. A deal was struck and the Tipton family moved to Nacogdoches in late spring of 1959.
Milton Gray had acquired the Ford business from his father-in-law Duke H. Herbert, whose franchise is said to have been signed by Henry Ford himself.
Tipton hired Travis Billingsley as sales manager in the 1960s.
He bought Greater Lufkin Ford, naming Billingsley as manager and minority partner.
Tipton later bought out Billingsley's interest.
James Tipton “brought creative, aggressive advertising and promotion” to Nacogdoches, according to then-radio station owner Bob Dunn. Tipton encouraged test drives on hot summer days by giving away half gallons of ice cream. “Once you got your ice cream, you had to hurry straight home and get it into the freezer,” laughed Dunn. “That meant you wouldn’t stop at any other dealerships after visiting Tipton.”
Jimmy Tipton graduated with a degree in finance from the University of Texas. When Billingsley left, Jimmy became general manager of the Lufkin store, and by the late 1980s was managing the Nacogdoches dealership. James Tipton passed away in 1998. When Jimmy passed away in 2002, his wife Margie ran the dealership for several years.
SFA graduate Neal Slaten began work at the dealership as a salesperson in 1994 and became owner and Dealer Principal in 2007, buying the dealership from Margie Tipton.
Tipton Ford - Lincoln continues to serve the community.
The company is a major sponsor of SFA athletics, the SFA fine arts department, Helping House, Heartbeat, the Boys and Girls Club, and every local high school Project Graduation. Tipton provides three $1,000 scholarships each year for FFA members from Nacogdoches County schools.
Tipton sponsors the Farm Family of the Year Award and the Chamber’s Citizen of the Year Award. They recently landed a Huey helicopter in the dealership’s parking lot in cooperation with MIA/POW day.
Neal Slaten gives full credit to the dealership’s 51 team members.
“Tipton Ford - Lincoln's real story is the amazing people that work at the dealership,” Slaten said. “Their commitment to our customers and this community is second to none. The volunteer hours our employees give to their churches, youth sports teams, non-profit boards, prayer groups and youth education makes an impact on this community that can not be measured.”
Tipton Ford Lincoln is an active member of the Chamber and NEDCO. Margie Tipton served on the Chamber board, and as Education Committee chair. She was the Chamber’s 2007 Citizen of the Year, honoring her dedication to the American Red Cross. Neal Slaten is completing a three-year term on the Chamber Board. He chairs NEDCO’s Technical Training Center committee and Nominating Committee.
Slaten has served or is serving as Chamber Membership Services Vice Chair, Business Development Vice Chair, Membership Drive Campaign Chair, Total Resource Campaign Chair and continues as a major sponsor of many events.