OBITUARY: Frank Norfleet, Early Founder Of Association Of Automotive Aftermarket Distributors

OBITUARY: Frank Norfleet, Early Founder Of Association Of Automotive Aftermarket Distributors

Norfleet will be remembered by many as the chairman and CEO of Parts Industries Corp. Parts Inc., Heavy Duty Parts Inc., Worldparts Corp., Triple T Inc., Riverside Tractor Parts, Aftermarket Inc., Motors Inc. and many other subsidiaries fell under this umbrella.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Frank M. Norfleet, a true icon of the automotive aftermarket industry, passed away peacefully on Friday, Feb. 17 at the age of 93.
A lifelong Memphian, he was born on Nov. 27, 1918. He leaves his wife of 69 years, Jean Norfleet; three daughters and sons-in-law, Janet and Mike Sheahan, Jean and John Laughlin and Frances and Alex Thompson; seven grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. His half-brother, Dunbar Abston, Jr. (and Connie) also survive him. His father, Cecil Norfleet; his mother, Esther Cook Norfleet Abston; his stepfather Dunbar Abston, Sr.; and a brother, Everett Norfleet, predeceased him.
He was an elder at Second Presbyterian Church and humbly led his family and others in the Christian faith.
Norfleet will be remembered by many as the chairman and CEO of Parts Industries Corp. Parts Inc., Heavy Duty Parts Inc., Worldparts Corp., Triple T Inc., Riverside Tractor Parts, Aftermarket Inc., Motors Inc. and many other subsidiaries fell under this umbrella.
He was the only person to serve as president and director of two separate and prestigious national associations in the industry: the Automotive Engine Rebuilders Association and the Automotive Warehouse Distributors Association. He was also named AWDA Automotive Man of the Year in 1972, served as a trustee of the AWDA University, and he received the Automotive Hall of Fame’s Distinguished Service Citation. He was founder and chairman of the Association of Automotive Aftermarket Distributors (AAAD). This was an association of warehouse distributors who participated in the Parts Plus advertising program offered by Parts Inc. and used the Parts Plus licensed trademark.
Norfleet was founder and the first president of the Automotive Information Council in New York. He served as president of the Super Service Club of Distributors Institute, Chicago, and he was a director of the Car Care Council, Detroit, and a member of the District Council of two divisions of General Motors Corp., AC and United Delco. He served in numerous other industry roles and received many more industry awards.
Parts Industries was originally formed as Ozburn Automobile Supply Co. by Field Ozburn in 1911. When Dunbar Abston Sr. joined the company, it became Ozburn-Abston Company. Norfleet joined the firm in 1946 after working for several years at First National Bank in Memphis (now First Tennessee Bank). And, after serving in Europe during World War II where he was awarded the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Belgian Croix de Guerre (for service at the Battle of the Bulge) and the Silver Star for Valor. He was also in the Ninth Armored Division during the crossing of the Rhine River at Remagen.
Parts Inc. was formed in 1958 when the company foresaw warehouse distribution as its way of the future, with warehouses in Memphis,
Baton Rouge, La., Jackson, Miss.; and Huntsville, Ala., and about 10 years later started franchising under the PI Systems name. In 1977, the Data Processing Division developed TOPS III, the most advanced computer system in the automotive aftermarket at the time.
In 1979, this family owned business was sold to Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds plc (GKN) of Birmingham, England. In 1984, Norfleet retired but remained as chairman emeritus of the board of directors of GKN (USA) Parts Industries Corp. For several years, he was also managing director of GKN Autoparts International, which included the French, British and the U.S. automotive operations.
Then, Frank Norfleet established NCRD Group Inc., a consulting firm that offered business, industry and institutions comprehensive management consulting services covering a broad spectrum of contemporary issues.
Through the years, he has served on the board of directors of several NYSE-listed companies including CSX Corp., First Tennessee National Corp. and Malone and Hyde, as well C.H. Bailey plc of the U.K.
Because of his dedicated service in different fields, he received many honors and awards, including the L.M. Graves Memorial Health Award presented by the Mid-South Medical Center Council, and he was honored by the American Jewish Committee. He was also elected to two six-year terms as a Justice of the Peace of Shelby County Quarterly Court.
He fully enjoyed volunteering. He served as president and chairman of the Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce and was vice president of the Cotton Carnival Assn. In the health field, he co-chaired the finance committee of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and The University of Tennessee Cancer Research Centers in 1976. In the education field, he was a member of the University of Tennessee Development Council and co-chaired the Tennessee Tomorrow, National Fundraising Campaign of UT in 1977-1980. He was a founding member and chairman of the Board of Governors of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis (originally the Memphis-Plough Community Foundation). He was also a trustee of Rhodes College, Presbyterian Day School, Hutchison School and Elmwood Cemetery for many years.
His philanthropic endeavors as well as his fundraising leadership through the years benefited many charities such as MIFA, Church Health Center, Memphis Zoological Society, Boy Scouts and Mid-South Food Bank among others. Mentoring others also gave him great pleasure, especially through the Society of Entrepreneurs.
Norfleet was an avid sportsman, enjoying bird hunting, fishing, polo and tennis. His special joy was traveling with his whole family. He wrote his autobiography for his family, titled, “Blessings and Joys.”
A memorial service was held Monday Feb. 20 at Second Presbyterian Church. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to a charity of the donor’s choice.
In sharing the news of Norfleet’s passing, Mike Lambert, president of the Automotive Distribution Network, said, "To say that Frank Norfleet was an automotive industry icon would be an understatement. He joined the Ozburn-Abston Co. in 1946 and formed Parts Inc. in 1958. He also developed the Parts Plus name in that same year. In 1977, he invited the heads of the leading automotive manufacturers to Memphis for a meeting. Standing on the stage of the Peabody Hotel, with a young lawyer at his side, our own Bob Johnson, he explained his concept for an automotive association. Frank’s style was as much suggestion as mandate, and Frank always got his way. Thus was the beginning of the Association of Automotive Aftermarket Distributors, or AAAD, as our original association was called…
"There are few men who have the resume of a Frank Norfleet," Lambert continued. "His legacy follows him into the future and the Network is part of that legacy."

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