Auto dealer Frank Lawrence dies

Monday, Nov. 19, 2012 3:21 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012 4:29 AM
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Frank Lawrence, owner of Augusta’s Bobby Jones Ford dealership and past owner of two Augusta professional sports teams, died Monday. He was 71.

Frank Lawrence  FILE/STAFF
Frank Lawrence

Coroner Grover Tuten confirmed the death and said it was from natural causes.

William S. Morris III, the publisher of The Augusta Chronicle and chairman and chief executive officer of Morris Communications Co., said Lawrence was an energetic businessman and a good citizen devoted to improving his community.

“He was civic-minded and wanted the best for Augusta,” said Morris, who briefly was a co-owner with Lawrence of the Augusta Lynx ice hockey team. “He put his time and energy into everything he did, and he was a fine citizen. He will be missed.”

Lawrence served on the board of the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association and was known as a capable businessman, said Will Schafer, the owner of Master Buick GMC in Augusta.

“One of the things about Frank was, I don’t think I ever heard anyone say anything bad about him,” Shafer said. “He will really be missed.”

Lawrence’s son and namesake, Frank “Bud” Lawrence II, once told the Chronicle that his father might never have moved to Augusta had it not been for a stranger he met on the way to Daytona Beach, Fla.

His son said in a newspaper interview that his father had proposed opening a new Ford dealership in Birmingham, Ala. But Ford turned it down. Instead, the company suggested that he buy Bobby Jones Ford in Augusta.

On his way to the Daytona 500, the older Lawrence stopped at a gas station in Florida and ran into someone with Richmond County tags. He and the stranger struck up a conversation. It helped convince him he should take the deal.

A native of Nashville, Tenn., Lawrence said he began selling cars to feed his family.

“I graduated from college and went to work for Carnation Co., calling on supermarkets and grocery store chains,” he said in a 1999 interview. “I was working for less than $500 a month, trying to feed a family of five. Got an ad that said, ‘Do you want to earn $1,000 a month?’ I knew I needed $1,000 a month to feed my family, so I went to work selling automobiles. I’ll never forget my mother’s comment to me: ‘You know you’ve got a college degree and you’re going to sell used cars?’ ”

He was good at it.

Beginning in Alabama in 1967, he rose to become a sales manager, finance manager and then a sales consultant. He opened a Toyota dealership in 1974, sold it and bought a Cadillac dealership in 1981, which he sold 10 years later.

In 1991, he bought Bobby Jones Ford.

A college football player at Middle Tennesee State University, Lawrence later owned the Augusta Stallions, an arena football league team.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

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TrulyWorried 11/19/12 - 04:53 pm
Frank Lawrence

Our family has dealt with Mr. Lawrence and Bobby Jones Ford on various occasions and were always satisfied with the outstanding service. My son is still driving his 2003 F150 - bought from Bobby Jones and greeted at that time personally by Mr. Lawrence.
May he rest in peace and our sincere condolences to his family and his staff and friends.

itsanotherday1 11/19/12 - 05:58 pm
Mine aren't fond memories due

Mine aren't fond memories due to being a hockey fan; but it is always sad when a community icon passes, especially at that age. Condolences to family and friends, and I hope his dealership stays here.

my.voice 11/19/12 - 09:32 pm
Augusta has lost a

Augusta has lost a cornerstone of our community. To say Mr Lawrence was energetic is like calling the space shuttle a flying vehicle. Rest in peace Frank, rest in peace.

soitgoes 11/21/12 - 12:04 am
God Bless you, Mr. Lawrence

Thank you for all you did to impact our community in such a positive way. Augusta will miss you.

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