Start at the Finish Line

Harold Coker

I’d often heard Harold Coker tell the story of how he went into the tire business. Born in a log cabin in NC, and the first in his family to receive a college education, he founded Coker Tire in 1958. His parents sold their home to loan him the start up money. He made sure he cared and honored them for the rest of their lives, including buying them a home to replace the one they had sold. Harold built Coker Tire into the largest supplier of collector car tires and wheels in the world. A man of leadership and integrity, His word was as good as gold. What I didn’t know until his passing last month was the depth of the generosity in his heart and his ability to see other’s through the eyes of Jesus.

Over 3000 people attended the visiting service at the funeral home in Chattanooga. They stood in line for long hours in order to pay their respects to a man who had made a difference in their lives. When his sons and daughter would ask how they knew Dad, the stories flowed.

“ I couldn’t afford new tires, and told Harold that, but he told me to give me what I had. He put tires on my car and gave me $10 back…”

“ I had no money to get new tires, so Harold put me on a payment plan. After paying $20 for three months, he said my account was paid off…”

“He gave me a job when no one else would…”

“I didn’t have the courage to go into business on my own, but Harold walked me through and mentored me as I began the journey…”

Harold Coker chose well, led well, and finished well. He left a legacy of faith, integrity, leadership, generosity, and family.

Unfortunately, only 1 in 3 leaders finishes well. (Dr. Robert Clinton) Some crash and burn from a lack of integrity. Others make poor choices in life and leadership and never achieve the potential their lives represented.

If you want to finish well, you have to start at the finish line. What choices are you making each day? What are you learning from others? How do you pour your life experiences and wisdom into the next generation? What legacy will you leave for those around you?