Auto giant Sam Swope remembered for his generosity

Auto giant Sam Swope remembered for his generosity
Sam Swope (Source: Family photo)
Sam Swope (Source: Family photo)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Sam Swope, the founder of Kentucky's largest auto dealership, has died.

The news was announced Tuesday in a short statement sent on behalf of the Swope family.

"Samuel G. Swope passed away peacefully at home today," the statement said. "The family of Samuel G. Swope would like to thank the Louisville community for their support during this difficult time as they gather to celebrate Mr. Swope's remarkable life and legacy."

It's not clear how Swope died. He was 88.

"The family requests that in lieu of flowers, per Sam's wishes, that a donation be made to support your favorite cause, or one of his: Kosair Charities or The Kentucky Humane Society," the statement read.

Swope's daughter, Susan Swope, posted a short message on

around 3:15 p.m. Tuesday.

"Rest in peace, Dad," she wrote. "You will be missed by many, but especially by your family."

Swope's success in business was surpassed only by his generosity. In 2009, the impressive car dealer was named Louisvillian of the Year, and there's a huge reason he was so deserving of that honor. It's the catchy commercial line and work motto that helped make Sam Swope the top auto dealer in Kentucky: "Nobody Walks Away."

Swope started simple in 1951. His success selling cars made him a lot of money, but his heart easily trumped his wallet.

Randy Coe, president of Kosair Charities said when it came to kids, Swope changed his motto to "Every child is going to walk away."

"He made sure every child had an opportunity to walk away so they could walk again and play like other kids," said Coe.

The World War II Navy diver gave to countless charities over the years, including Kentucky Masonic Homes. A mason of 63 years himself, Swope's generosity improved the lives of thousands of residents.

Because of his great love for children and animals, Swope also gave his time and money to Kosair Charities and the Kentucky Humane Society. In August alone, he gave $1 million for a new animal treatment and rehab center.

"Gosh, he had so many stories of all the great pets he shared his life with," said friend and Kentucky Humane Society President Lori Kane Redmon. Besides his wife and children, Redmon said, the biggest love of Swope's life recently was Lilly Bell, a Corgi-Aussie mix that Redmon helped foster.

"He was taken with her," Redmon said of the pals, "so he adopted my foster dog and took her home with him, and she went to Florida and back with him, and she had a really special life with him."

Nephew Dick Swope served as CEO and President of the company until recently when Sam Swope's daughter Patti took over. That allowed the widowed Swope to enjoy his final years as a newlywed.

Last year, WAVE 3 News sat down with Swope and his new wife Marlys. She said she fell for him because, "He's the most open-hearted, generous person."

"I've got her fooled, haven't I?" Swope laughed.

"He was an example for others, and if this is how you're supposed to make the world a better place for people, that great model is hard to replace," said Coe. "Our community is very blessed. There are some very good people in it, but there were none better than Sam Swope."

The public visitation for Swope is Friday, Dec. 12 from 12 to 2 p.m. and from 4 to 7 p.m. at Southeast Christian Church. The funeral will be held there Saturday morning at 10:30 followed by a private burial at Cave Hill Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to support local charities or to support Swope's two favorites: Kosair Charities and the Kentucky Humane Society.

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