Jack Crawford Taylor. Photo courtesy of Enterprise Holdings.

Jack Crawford Taylor. Photo courtesy of Enterprise Holdings.

Jack Crawford Taylor, who built a tiny car rental business into the world’s largest car rental provider, died on July 2 in St. Louis after a brief illness at the age of 94, according to a press announcement from Enterprise Holdings, 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 neighborhood locations.

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 brands that include Alamo, Enterprise and National.

Enterprise Holdings and its affiliate Enterprise Fleet Management, which include car rental and carsharing services, commercial truck rental, corporate fleet management and retail car sales, accounted for $19.4 billion 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.

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.”

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 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 made many large contributions to several leading cultural, educational and historical causes to his hometown of St. Louis.

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 to 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.

Taylor’s achievements as both businessman and philanthropist earned numerous honors over the years. In recognition of his generosity, The Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked 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.

The funeral service will be private. The family requests that memorial donations be made to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Forest Park Forever, or the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. For more information, visit jacktaylorremembered.com.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet