HILLSBORO BEACH, Florida, April 25. JIM Moran, a 1995 recipient of the International Swimming Hall of Fame's Gold Medallion Award, passed away on April 24 in Hillsboro Beach, Fla., at the age of 88.
ISHOF released the following obituary to the media today, and will post Moran's 1995 Induction ceremony video on ISHOF.org later today.
Jim Moran was born in Chicago in 1918, the son of Irish and German immigrants. Jim lost his father at an early age and began pumping gas at a neighborhood gas station to help support his mother and sister.
In 1939, Jim was able to purchase his own station for $360.00. After a number of years of working at a gas station, 16 hours a day, seven days a week, he opened a used car lot. This led to a small Hudson automobile dealership, which he built to become the largest Hudson store in the Nation. In 1955, Jim established Courtesy Ford and through his marketing and promotion innovations, it grew to become the largest Ford dealership in the world.
In the early years of television, Jim was the first dealer to ever advertise new and used cars on television. At one time, he sponsored three live shows a week, handling the host duties and all live commercials himself. Throughout the Midwest viewers tuned in and bought cars from "Jim Moran, the Courtesy Man."
But Jim also gave a great deal back to the people of his community. For many years, he donated countless hours to organize and host fund-raising telethons for charities such as the City of Hope, the American Cancer Society and the Heart Fund.
It was during this time that swimming became a part of Jim's life. When he was 41 years old, two of his close friends died of heart attacks while playing handball, one of Jim's favorite activities. According to his 1996 autobiography, "Jim Moran the Courtesy Man," Jim's wife, suggested he take up swimming.
"My first day in the water, I could barely paddle across the pool's thirty-foot width. Steadily, however, I improved my conditioning and finally regularly stroked sixty sixty-foot lengths a day. I learned that swimming was a great conditioning and stretching exercise and an outstanding low impact workout to build staying power."
He also found that while doing laps some of his "very best business ideas" occurred to him.
As Jim's interest in swimming grew, he sponsored the Jim Moran Lake Michigan Swim for seven years in Chicago. It not only promoted long distance and marathon swimming, but generated a tremendous amount of publicity for his automobile dealership. Long distance swimmers, including the legendary Abou Heif of Egypt, came from all over the world to swim for prizes that ranged up to $25,000. The race was front page news, and local television and radio stations provided hourly updates on the swimmers' progress.
In 1965, Jim was diagnosed with melanoma and learned that the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes and bloodstream. He underwent radical surgery, lasting five and a half hours, to remove the lymph nodes under his arm. After the surgery, his doctor advised him that his chances of survival and recovery were less than 10 percent. Given between six months and three years to live, Jim sold his dealership and bought a house in Hillsboro, Florida, a mile from the Hillsboro inlet, where he thought he would live out what remained of his life.
"I swam (to the inlet) every day and would walk or jog back. I'd have my days when I thought that I would lick the disease. On others not. Everybody with cancer whom I have known wavers between resignation and fighting it, mostly in the latter case to keep up spirits of their loved ones. Overall, you pretty well accept the fact that school might be out."
Instead of his condition worsening, as he had expected, he gradually realized that his old strength and stamina were returning. A year later he was back in the car business, opening Pontiac dealership in Hollywood, Florida.
By 1968, Jim's Pontiac dealership was the largest in the nation and he was approached by representatives from Toyota who were looking for a distributor to represent the company in the southeast United States. At the time, there was only one Toyota dealership in south Florida and it sold less than 6 cars a month. During an interview, Toyota's Vice President pointedly asked: "What would you do, Moran-san, if I shipped you ten-thousand cars?"
"I'd sell them!" Moran responded confidently. The rest is history. Today, Jim Moran's Southeast Toyota is the largest, private automobile distributor in the world and is one of 19 auto related companies comprising JM Family Enterprises, recently ranked by Forbes Magazine as the 18th largest privately owned company in the United States.
In his eighties, Jim Moran continued to go to the office every day and often swam in the company pool, although in recent years he left the day to day operations to his daughter Pat and other executives.
In the late 1990's, Jim and Jan Moran and JM Family Enterprises established the "Moran Learn to Swim Endowment Fund" at the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
In his Gold Medallion acceptance speech in 1995, Jim said that he always noticed that swimmers where "hard workers and had the highest moral values." These were traits that he admired and not coincidentally many of his employees were swimmers.
A year ago, Jim Moran presented his friend and fellow swimmer, Jim Press, CEO of Toyota North America, with ISHOF's Gold Medallion and he was expected to attend the 43rd Annual TOYOTA Honoree Induction Weekend events in Fort Lauderdale, May 10-13.
In addition to supporting the International Swimming Hall of Fame, TOYOTA is a major sponsor of USA Swimming.
A private ceremony will be held as well as two public "Celebration of Life Gatherings" – one at JM Family's Corporate Headquarters in Deerfield Beach, FL and one at Southeast Toyota's Westlake Vehicle Processing facility in Jacksonville, FL. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to The Jim Moran Foundation, 100 Jim Moran Boulevard, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.
Swimming World Magazine sends it condolences to the friends and family of Jim Moran as they mourn his passing.