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Harry G. Robinson Jr.
Harry Robinson Buick GMC
Fort Smith, Arkansas
“I became the owner of a dealership because those I worked for coming up in the automotive industry cared about me.”
“I became the owner of a dealership because those I worked for coming up in the automotive industry cared about me,” nominee Robinson said. “They cultivated and equipped me to be the best owner I could be. If not for them, I wouldn't be here today.”
A 1967 graduate of Meridian High School in Meridian, Mississippi, Robinson attended East Mississippi Junior College (now East Mississippi Community College) in Scooba, Mississippi, majoring in general studies. He served in the Mississippi Air National Guard from 1968 to 1974.
In 1970, Robinson began selling used cars at a dealership in Meridian and realized that he had a knack for sales. He eventually worked his way up the ranks at several stores before moving his family to Louisiana in 1978, where he worked for Dick Durham, a car dealer in Hammond, Louisiana, who became his mentor and friend.
“I developed an advertising plan that increased unit sales and profits,” he said. “I was very fortunate to work for someone like Mr. Durham who helped shape my philosophy and belief that the collective strength of the dealership's customer satisfaction is derived from the individual effort and dedication of every employee.”
Durham helped Robinson find the Fort Smith dealership in 1984, at the time a Pontiac store. Robinson later acquired Buick and GMC, which he still runs today. His three daughters all work for the dealership. In regards to being in the car business, he's known for saying, “I believe you don't get into the car business, the car business gets into you.”
And he is a strong advocate for the automobile industry, having served on the legislative committee for the Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association since 1988 and tirelessly fighting for dealers’ rights, workers compensation reform, Arkansas usury law and many other important issues.
Robinson also champions local causes. “I strive to be a blessing to our community,” he said. “Every volunteerism project and donation is fulfilled with supporting our local communities in mind.” To that end, he has created promotions to benefit area schools and organizations, including an annual donation of dictionaries to local third graders; Sierra Full of Joy, a Christmas gift drive for local foster children; Harry’s Heart to Heart Diaper Drive; We Support the Blue, which donated $100 for every vehicle sold during a specified period to the local police and sheriff departments; and recently, a GMC Yukon to the local police department for his Partner in Education’s Resource Officer.
His employees also give back by taking part in the United Way Day of Caring and in mentoring local junior high students through the Partner in Education program. Robinson holds monthly 50/50 raffles where an employee splits the money with a charity; donates school supplies for children in need; and hosts food drives for community backpack programs benefitting children who may not eat on weekends while away from school, as well as supports Fort Smith Public Schools; Ronald McDonald House Charities Arkoma; Susan G. Komen; Girls Inc.; and Community Services Clearinghouse, an information-sharing agency that helps families and individuals in critical need.
For his philanthropic contributions, Robinson has received many honors and was named Rotarian of the Year in 2017 by the University Rotary Club of Fort Smith. “The award is designated for a Rotarian who clearly stands out in demonstrating ‘service above self,’ and since our club does not give one out every year, it is truly an honor to receive this recognition,” he said.
Robinson was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Greg Kirkpatrick, president of the Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife, Nancy, have six children and 15 grandchildren.