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Enterprise founder and philanthropist Jack Taylor dies at 94

Jack Taylor, founder of Enterprise Holdings, died Saturday, July 2, 2016.
Provided by Enterprise Holdings
Jack Taylor, founder of Enterprise Holdings, died Saturday, July 2, 2016.

Updated Saturday, July 2 — Jack Crawford Taylor, who transformed a tiny car rental business into one of the world's largest rental car companies, died Saturday. The Enterprise Holdings founder was 94.

Taylor died after a short illness, according to a release from Enterprise. He is being widely hailed for his business acumen, making the company he founded in 1957 into a powerhouse that includes Alamo Rent A Car, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and National Car Rental. He also is being remembered for his financial contributions in St. Louis, where Enterprise is among the largest companies.

Taylor and his family have donated hundreds of millions to St. Louis cultural, educational and historical organizations over the years, including $30 million to Forest Park Forever and $25 million to the City Arch River 2015 Foundation last year.

Taylor previously gave $50 million in endowed scholarships to Washington University and another $50 million to the St. Louis Symphony.

That support helped symphony re-establish an endowed trust, Symphony president Marie-Hélène Bernard said.

“[The endowment] has really solidified our future, has allowed us to recruit and maintain the finest orchestra — one of the finest orchestras in the country here in St. Louis,” Bernard said. It has allowed us to continue to remain artistically excellent but also insure that future generations of St. Louisans can have a great symphony and enjoy it on a daily basis and generations to come.

“Jack was a friend of the symphony so of course his passing even in old age it’s always a shock,” Bernard said. “His leadership and legacy have forever transformed the St. Louis community and the St. Louis Symphony.”

A video released by Enterprise contains footage of Taylor, who recalls a life that had been "a wonderful, American, all kind of lucky guy experience.”

“When I started Enterprise I just wanted the customer when they walked out the door to say ‘God that’s a nice guy and that’s a nice place do to business,’” he said. “I had no thought about being the biggest. I wanted to be the best. And I wanted the people to be happy and I wanted to be happy. And the bottom line was not a big consideration.”

He said a big part of his life was sharing his wealth with others.

“I just got more money than I need and I think that there are people out there that don’t have as much as they need to have for a reasonably happy life," Taylor said. "And I would like to give them some of mine.”

Born April 22, 1922 in St. Louis, Taylor was a graduate of Clayton High School. He briefly attended Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., and Washington University in St. Louis. After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, he left school to enlist in the U.S. Navy and served as a decorated fighter pilot in the Pacific. He twice received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Navy Air Medal.

After returning to St. Louis, he founded and operated a package delivery business before working in sales for Lindburg Cadillac. He founded Executive Leasing in 1957 with seven vehicles and in 1962 started renting cars.

“My father took a simple idea and created a great company,” his son, Andrew Taylor, said in a statement released by Enterprise Holdings.

“We will miss him," said Andrew Taylor, the company's executive chairman. "But we will honor his memory every day as we live the values he instilled in our company – taking excellent care of our customers, encouraging and supporting each other and giving back to our communities.”

In addition to his son, Taylor is survived by his daughter, Jo Ann Taylor Kindle, of St. Louis; five granddaughters and three great-granddaughters.

Funeral services will be private. The family requests that memorial donations be made to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Forest Park Forever or the St. Louis Symphony. 

More information about Jack Taylor's life can be found on the company's digital remembrance.