HATTIESBURG, Miss. (June 1, 2016) — Ernest Duff, founder of Southern Tire Mart, died May 27 at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg at age 84.
An attorney by training, Mr. Duff founded Southern Tire Mart — the largest independent commercial tire dealership in North America — in 1973 to service the tire needs of the first company he started, Forest Products Transports, seven years earlier.
Southern Tire Mart led to the formation of Duff Capital Investors, which today comprises a dozen various businesses employing over 10,000 people with total revenues exceeding $2.2 billion. Duff Capital Investors is the second largest business in Mississippi, according to local sources.
Mr. Duff was born June 2, 1931, in Covington County, Mississippi, and went on to study at Columbia High School, where he was student body president, and the University of Mississippi in Oxford. He was a graduate of the Ole Miss Law School.
Mr. Duff was attorney for the City of Columbia for 32 years; attorney for Marion County for 36 years; attorney for Pearl River Valley Electric Power Association for 53 years; and served on the board of directors of Trustmark Bank for 28 years.
He also had an entrepreneurial spirit. While serving as an attorney for Georgia Pacific in Columbia, he saw that the company needed someone to haul wood chips.
He solved that problem by starting Forest Products Transports, and laterfounded Southern Tire Mart to fulfill the tire needs of his trucking company.
He is preceded in death by his parents, his brother Radelle Duff and sisters Janie Duff Cochran and Georgia Duff Harrington.
He is survived by his wife Bobbie Baggett Duff of Hattiesburg; sons Tommy, Jim and Stephen of Hattiesburg; and daughter Jane of Hattiesburg; seven grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
He attended the Oak Grove Ward Church of The Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints where he was a former bishop and member of the High Priest Quorum. Memorial services were held May 29.