CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.Coker Tire Co. founder and avid collector car promoter Harold Coker, 84, died Nov. 16 after an accidental fall.
Just a couple weeks earlier he was inducted into the Tire Industry Association's (TIA) Hall of Fame during the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nov. 3.
Born on Christmas Eve in 1929 in a log cabin in Cherokee, N.C., Mr. Coker was an avid car enthusiast from a young age. He was one of the founding members of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AA-CA) chapter in Athens, Tenn., in 1957, eventually becoming the National AACA president in 1972.
Mr. Coker began his business career as a territory manager with the old B.F. Goodrich Tire Co. before starting his own business, Coker Tire Co., in Athens in 1958 with the help of a loan from his parents, Hardy and Ethel Coker.
He moved his fledgling tire supply business to Chattanooga in 1961, leading the company to become the largest supplier of collector car tires and wheels in the world, according to Coker Tire.
In 1985, Mr. Coker served as president of the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association (NTDRA), precursor trade group to TIA.
The family said Mr. Coker often was referred to as the father of the local Hamilton County Republican Party, serving as one of its most active county chairmen. While on the county commission, he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission. He also was president of the Pachyderm Club of Chattanooga, and ran for U.S. Congress in 1988.
In 2006 he received the Entrepreneur of the Year award from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Mr. Coker is survived by his wife of 61 years Lillian; sons David and Corky, Coker Group owner; daughter Christie Bowen; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.