Home News National Jack Crawford Taylor: War Hero, Business Leader, Philanthropist

Jack Crawford Taylor: War Hero, Business Leader, Philanthropist

ST. LOUIS (July 2, 2016) – Jack Crawford Taylor, who built a tiny car rental business into the world’s largest and most comprehensive car rental provider, died today in St. Louis after a brief illness at the age of 94. The company he founded, Enterprise Holdings Inc., owns the Alamo Rent A Car, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and National Car Rental brands.

In 1957, Taylor, a decorated U.S. Navy fighter pilot in World War II, founded the company (then called Executive Leasing) in the lower level of a Cadillac dealership, where he worked as a salesman. In the coming decades, as the rest of the industry focused on serving airports, Taylor pioneered the “home city” car rental market. By renting cars from convenient, neighborhood locations to meet a variety of customer needs, Enterprise quietly but steadily transformed the industry by developing a market segment that grew to be as large or larger than the airport-based rental market.

In 2007, Enterprise acquired the Alamo Rent A Car and National Car Rental brands, enhancing the company’s offerings in the airport market. In 2009, the corporation took on the name Enterprise Holdings to reflect the full spectrum of transportation solutions offered through its three brands – Alamo, Enterprise and National.

Today, Enterprise Holdings and its affiliate Enterprise Fleet Management together offer a total transportation solution. Combined, these businesses – which include extensive car rental and car-sharing services, commercial truck rental, corporate fleet management and retail car sales – accounted for $19.4 billion (USD) in revenue in fiscal 2015. The combined revenues make Enterprise Holdings the largest car rental company in the world as measured by revenue, employees and fleet. It ranks as one of the largest private companies in the U.S. and if it were a public company, it would place at number 153 on the Fortune 500 list. Enterprise Holdings also is the only investment-grade company in the U.S. car rental industry, and it places near the top of the travel industry, ahead of many airlines and most cruise lines, hotels, tour operators and online travel agencies.

In addition to his reputation as a business executive and entrepreneur, Taylor also was known as a philanthropist. Since 1982, he personally donated more than $860 million to a wide variety of organizations, from Washington University in St. Louis to the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra to Forest Park Forever. In all, the Taylors and their family foundation, along with the Enterprise Holdings Foundation, have made more than $1 billion in charitable gifts.

“My father took a simple idea and created a great company,” said Andrew C. Taylor, Jack Taylor’s son and Enterprise Holdings’ current executive chairman. “We will miss him. But we will honor his memory every day as we live the values he instilled in our company – taking excellent care of our customers, encouraging and supporting each other and giving back to our communities.”

“The term ‘Greatest Generation’ was coined for men like Jack Taylor,” said William Danforth, Founding Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and Chancellor Emeritus of Washington University in St. Louis, who has long known the Taylor family. “He served his country with distinction in World War II, came back home, raised a talented family and built a world-class organization that has remained family operated, providing jobs for St. Louis and the nation. Jack, Enterprise and his family have reinvested resources for the good of our community, keeping strong and vital some of our most valued institutions. Jack has been a kind and friendly treasure for St. Louis; we are much better because this was his home.”

A gracious and friendly man by nature, Taylor brought a unique and engaging style to his business dealings, characterized by his oft-expressed philosophy that became the company’s hallmark: “Take care of your customers and employees first, and the profits will follow.”

And indeed they did. Profits of the privately held company are not publicly disclosed, but the company and its regional subsidiaries currently employ 91,000 people. Enterprise has more than 9,000 neighborhood and airport locations in more than 80 countries and territories. With more than 1.7 million cars and trucks, Enterprise Holdings owns the largest fleet of vehicles in the world.

In 2015, Enterprise Holdings rapidly expanded its Enterprise Rent-A-Car franchise network to have a presence throughout nearly all of the European rental market. In addition, Enterprise CarShare expanded operations to more than 35 U.S. states, Canada and the U.K.

Taylor balanced his business accomplishments with community involvement. He was an Emeritus Trustee of Washington University in St. Louis and founder of the Enterprise Holdings Foundation, the company’s charitable arm, which over the years has donated hundreds of millions to not-for-profit organizations in the local communities where Enterprise employees work and live.

Through the years, Taylor was especially generous to his hometown of St. Louis, making many large contributions to several leading cultural, educational and historical causes. Among the most notable of those contributions are:

  • $50 million to Washington University in St. Louis to endow scholarships for financially disadvantaged students;
  • $50 million to the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra;
  • $35 million to Forest Park Forever for the preservation of the city’s crown jewel, which was home to the 1904 World’s Fair and Olympics; and
  • $25 million to the CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation to support its efforts to expand and refurbish the grounds that surround the iconic Gateway Arch.

“Jack gave quietly and without fanfare,” said Lesley Hoffarth, president and executive director, Forest Park Forever, an organization supported by Jack Taylor and his family. “He invested heavily in the community and funded basic services because it was the right thing to do. He desired a great quality of life for as many as possible.”

Jack Taylor placed an emphasis on supporting underserved communities and youth in his beloved home town, St. Louis, which is home to six generations of Taylors. Cumulatively, Taylor and the company’s Foundation contributed many millions of dollars in support of St. Louis Children’s Hospital, the St. Louis Public Schools Foundation, the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Science Center, Harris-Stowe State University, Saint Louis University, Ranken Technical College, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis, United Way of Greater St. Louis, Our Little Haven, Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, the Black Repertory Theatre, and hundreds of other St. Louis charities.

Environmental stewardship was among Taylor’s priorities. Gifts or pledges from Enterprise and the Taylor family to support environmental initiatives have included:

  • A $50 million commitment to the Arbor Day Foundation to plant 50 million trees over 50 years;
  • $35 million to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to create the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels;
  • $30 million to the Missouri Botanical Garden to fund worldwide plant research; and
  • $1 million to the Everglades Foundation to help restore the Everglades and sustain South Florida’s water supply.

In addition, through personal donations, as well as grants made through the company’s Foundation, Taylor and his family have made donations to many causes outside of St. Louis:

  • A $10 million donation to the United States Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., in honor of Taylor’s service as a Navy combat pilot in World War II;
  • A $6 million gift to the Fisher House Foundation for construction of new homes in Charleston, S.C., and Portland, Ore., that provide accommodations for military families during medical treatment;
  • A $2 million grant to the National Urban League;
  • $1 million to support relief efforts following 9/11;
  • $1 million to Friends of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., to fund education programs;
  • Sizable gifts throughout the years to natural disaster relief efforts, including tornado and typhoon relief efforts in 2013; and
  • Hundreds of smaller grants to causes in communities throughout the company’s network of locations.

Born April 14, 1922, in St. Louis, Taylor was the first of two children born to Melbourne Martling Taylor and Dorothy Crawford Taylor. He graduated from Clayton High School and briefly attended Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., and Washington University in St. Louis. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in World War II, Taylor left school to enlist in the United States Navy.

During his years of military service (1942-1947), Taylor became an F6F Hellcat fighter pilot and saw combat duty in the Pacific Theatre from the decks of the aircraft carriers U.S.S. Essex and U.S.S. Enterprise (for which he later named his company). He was a member of Carrier Air Group 15, led by top Navy ace of all time, Commander David McCampbell. Group 15, which sustained more than 50 percent casualties during its World War II service, was one of the most decorated combat units in the history of U.S. Naval aviation. Taylor, who served as McCampbell’s wingman on several combat missions, was twice decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross, and also received the Navy Air Medal.

Years later, Taylor reflected back on how well his military service had prepared him for his business success, noting that “after landing a Hellcat on the pitching deck of a carrier, or watching enemy tracer bullets stream past your canopy, somehow the risk of starting up my own company didn’t seem all that big a deal.”

After returning home to St. Louis, Taylor founded and operated a package delivery business before taking a sales position in 1948 with Lindburg Cadillac. Then, in 1957, Taylor founded Executive Leasing in partnership with the Lindburg family. The small auto leasing business began operation with seven vehicles.

Taylor started renting cars on a small scale in 1962 as an additional service for his auto leasing customers. At a time when other car rental companies were focused on serving customers at airports, Taylor recognized the potential market for renting cars right in the neighborhoods where people lived and worked. He began providing these home city rentals to customers who needed an extra car for the weekend, for out-of-town guests or for children home from college, or whose own vehicles were in the shop for repairs. In the years since, Taylor’s company has continued to drive the development of the local rental and car-sharing market, as consumers rent cars to meet an expanding variety of transportation and lifestyle needs.

Taylor’s achievements as both businessman and philanthropist earned numerous honors over the years. In recognition of his generosity, The Chronicle of Philanthropyranked Taylor No. 11 on its 2015 “Philanthropy 50” list of America’s top donors. Other honors included the 2007 St. Louis Award; the 2005 Boeing Corporate Citizenship Award from the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association; the 2002 Citizen of the Year Award from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; and the 1997 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Taylor is survived by his son, Andrew C. (Barbara) Taylor, of St. Louis; and his daughter, Jo Ann Taylor Kindle (Tom Caruso), president of the Enterprise Holdings Foundation, of St. Louis. He also is survived by five granddaughters – Christine Taylor (Lee) Broughton and Patricia Taylor (Andy Magee) of St. Louis, and Kelly Taylor of Delray Beach, Fla., daughters of Andrew and Barbara Taylor; and Alison Kindle (Kyle) Hogan and Carolyn Kindle (Adam) Betz of St. Louis, daughters of Jo Ann Taylor Kindle. He was also the great-grandfather of Grace and Amelia Broughton, daughters of Lee and Christine Taylor Broughton, and Kylie Hogan, daughter of Kyle and Alison Kindle Hogan.

For more information, visit jacktaylorremembered.com.