published Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Chattanooga auto icon Pat Kelly dies

  • photo
    Tim Kelly sits to the right of from his father Pat Kelly at Kelly Cadillac in this file photo.
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Pat Kelly, owner of the former Kelly Cadillac dealership, died at his home on Signal Mountain on Tuesday. He was 78.

Born in Bainbridge, Ga., Kelly moved to Chattanooga and attended Central High School before earning a master’s degree in engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.

He served as a company commander in the U.S. Army, then worked briefly in South Carolina and returned to Chattanooga in 1963, going to work for his father-in-law at Ayers Motor Co. Kelly acquired the dealership in 1967 and it was renamed Kelly Cadillac in 1971. In 1982 Kelly became one of the first Cadillac dealers to add SAAB to his inventory. He eventually added the Subaru and Hummer brands.

Kelly retired in 2005 but remained the majority owner of the business until his death.

“He was a great man, a great car dealer and a good Chattanoogan,” said Clay Watson, president of Mountain View Ford. “Our family has been in the business a long time, and we consider the Kellys, and especially Pat Kelly, to be one of the pillars of the car business in the Chattanooga area. It’s a tremendous loss.”

Kelly was a past president of the Chattanooga Automotive Trades Association.

Kelly’s philanthropy included work with the Chattanooga Housing Authority and the downtown YMCA. He also served on the Cadillac National Dealer Council and was a member of the Downtown Rotary Club, the Mountain City Club and the Lander One Shot Past Shooter’s Club. He enjoyed reading, hunting and traveling.

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