AN ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY
Robert Paul Ross, Sr. was born on November 27, 1934 in Richmond, Indiana to Helen and Audrie Ross, Sr. He passed unexpectedly on July 6, 1997 in Centerville, Ohio. At age eighteen, he became a member of the United States Army. He was united in marriage with Norma Jean Henderson of Richmond, Indiana on September 4, 1954. After moving to Dayton, Ohio, Bob began working at DESC and Wright Patterson Air Force Base.
In 1962 Bob entered the automobile industry as a salesman for Shannon Buick in Dayton, Ohio. While at Shannon Buick he qualified for the Buick Sales Master Club for ten years. Bob began pursuing his entrepreneurial dream when he was chosen to participate in the General Motors Minority Dealer Academy. He received an Associate Degree from the University of Detroit. He was the first graduate of the GM Dealer Development Program to be approved as a dealer. He purchased Vivian Buick, Opal and International Harvester Trucks in Richmond, Indiana in 1974, where as a young man he worked as a car jockey.
He became the first African-American automobile dealer in the state of Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. After successfully operating the Richmond, Indiana dealership for 5 years, he purchased Davis Buick and Mercedes-Benz in Centerville, Ohio in 1979. Bob became the first African-American Mercedes-Benz Dealer in the world. Shortly, thereafter, in 1982 he purchased the GMC Truck franchise. His latest expansion was the complete of a new GMC facility (1995) and renovation of the entire Buick building (1996), housing the most up-to-date new car delivery area.
Bob Ross Buick, Mercedes-Benz, GMC Trucks have consistently been recognized by Black Enterprise Magazine as one of the Top 100 African-American automobile dealers in the nation since 1976. Bob’s business success was highlighted by his many accomplishments, including President, Vice-President and Director of the Dayton Area Auto Dealers Association, member of the Board of the Dayton Chamber of Commerce, as well as, serving for 3 years as a trustee. Bob was a member of the Centerville/Washington Township Chamber, received the Small Business Man of the Year Award from the University of Dayton, as well as, being a member of President Carter’s Small Business Conference.
He was a member of Buick and GMC’s Dealer Council, GM President’s Dealer Advisory Council; and a board member for the United Negro College Fund. Bob received the Best in Class for Buick in 1995 and 1996; and earned The Five Star Award for GMC in 1995. He was the #1 GMC Truck Dealer in Ohio for 1995. Bob was the first African-American dealer to serve as a member of the Mercedes-Benz Dealer Council. He was a member of the National Auto Dealers Association, the General Motors Minority Dealers Association, and the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers.
His civic contributions included serving on Wright State University’s President’s Advisory Council, chairperson of Boy Scouts of America Fundraisers, as well as, being a member of Selectmen, former member of G-Men, and life member of NAACP.
He is survived by his son Robert Jr., daughter Jenell, brothers John (Marsha), and Audrie, Jr. (Jean), nieces, nephews, cousins, and a host of friends and business associates. His legacy affords an opportunity for his family and staff to continue his successful entrepreneurial journey. As they have continued to demonstrate the same excellence in sales that has always been a part of its past.