Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center

Allen County Resources

Kelley Automotive Group was founded by the late Jim Kelley, a visionary businessman renowned for his legacy of integrity, compassion and philanthropy. Locally, his name is synonymous with automobile dealerships; but the success he achieved with his business reflects the values learned early in his life.

Born in 1918 and raised amidst the Great Depression, Jim Kelley often credited his work ethic to the lessons learned throughout his youth. Working on the family farm, he witnessed the hardships of his own father as he strived to provide for nine children in one of the toughest economic times in American history.

After leaving the farm, Jim obtained his pilot's license and co-founded Kelley Flying Service with Lester Myers. During that time, he met an airplane service customer who was also an Indianapolis Dodge dealer.

"I recall that gentleman suggesting to me that I really ought to be a car dealer," Jim said. "I didn't know a darn thing about selling cars, but 90 days later, I was a Dodge dealer."

Indeed, Jim founded Kelley Automotive Group on August 21, 1952—the same day his son, Tom Kelley, was born. During Tom's youth, Jim steadily built his company, earning the reputation of one of the community's most successful and beloved business leaders.

Tom joined the company in 1974, soon after graduating from Indiana University. He became a salesman at Jim Kelley Buick and worked in all areas of the dealership for seven years until he was promoted to General Manager in 1981. In November of 1983, Tom purchased the Buick dealership from his father and changed the name to Tom Kelley Buick. Tom describes the transaction as the fulfillment of a dream.

"There was never any doubt about what I wanted to do for a living," he said. "When I was a kid I went to new car shows. Sometimes I'd be the only kid there, but I loved it, and I knew I would do whatever it took to become a Buick dealer."

Knowing his son's feelings, Jim was delighted to pass the reins to Tom. After nurturing his son's interest in the car business and watching him mature into an astute businessman, he knew it was the right time to let Tom have the thrill and responsibility of ownership. Father and son became business partners, forming an unbeatable team.

Now at the helm of six dealerships throughout Fort Wayne and Decatur, Tom has continued the Kelley legacy while successfully navigating the ever-evolving automotive industry. He has led the dealerships to outstanding performance in both sales and customer service, and works diligently to give back to the community.

While his passion motivates his work, Tom often reflects on one poignant piece of advice from his father: "Never short anyone, be honest and if you do and have the right attitude, you will turn out ok."

Tom Kelley
President

Jim Kelley
Vice President of Operations

Maureen Clausen
Executive Assistant

Brian Lytle
Vice President of Sales

Trent Waybright
Director of Pre-Owned Operations

Jill Adams
Director of Communications

Adam Brueggeman
Controller