Tribute: Frank McCarthy


Frank E. McCarthy was chief executive of the National Automobile Dealers Association from 1968 to 2001. He died on February 25, 2001 from complications in his battle with kidney cancer. He was 66.

As the ranking staff member in charge of NADA's day-to-day operations, McCarthy worked tirelessly on behalf of new-car dealers. He built NADA into one of the country's largest and most respected trade associations.

McCarthy was "the man who has done more for America's franchised dealers than anyone in history," said 2000 NADA Chairman Harold B. Wells in saluting McCarthy's 33 years of service to the association. In February 2001, McCarthy was presented the International Freedom of Mobility Award in a special tribute at NADA's Convention in Las Vegas.

McCarthy, pictured here with his wife, Pat, was presented with the International Freedom of Mobility Award in a special tribute at NADA's 2001 Convention.

Industry leaders praised McCarthy's ability to bridge the gap between dealer and manufacturer, and his knack for working behind the scenes while allowing others to have the limelight. During the recent NADA Convention tribute, industry figures such as Edsel Ford, GM's Jack Smith, and Toyota's Yale Gieszl, shared memories and accolades in a video film highlighting his career.

In 1998, he was named Association Executive of the Year by Association Trends newspaper. In his address to the Association Trends Awards luncheon, he lamented the perception that associations are "lethargic" and that "many think we are lobbyists or meeting planners and that's it....We will gain more respect for the association community and our members if we get out and let people know we are business people."

McCarthy received the Distinguished Service Citation from the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1987. He also served on numerous boards in the automotive and education fields.

McCarthy (with his wife, Pat, at left)
receives the Association Executive
of the Year award from Association Trends publisher Jill Cornish (center)
in Jan. 1998.

In a 1998 interview with Automotive News, he made a distinction between himself and many other successful CEOs.

"Many successful CEOs have not had successful marriages or success with their children because of the time commitment for the job," said McCarthy, the father of five. "One reason I came to work for NADA was that dealers understand the importance of family. I don't work on Sunday. I am home every evening."

"There's is no industry that is more fun to work in...," McCarthy told NADA's AutoExec magazine in another rare media interview in 1993. "And when you're in automobiles, you're in the major leagues."

Frank McCarthy
joined NADA
in 1968

McCarthy joined NADA as executive vice-president at age 33 after serving as legislative council to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) and the Rules Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. He also previously served as secretary/manager of the National Bus Association. To learn the ins and outs of running a large, multifaceted organization, McCarthy relied on the dealers who had hired him for management advice and support.

When McCarthy joined NADA in 1968, the association was headquartered in Washington, D.C. and had 175 employees. By 2001, he directed a staff of more than 400 located in NADA's headquarters in McLean, Virginia, and on Capitol Hill in the District of Columbia. "My greatest pride has been developing a staff. We have the best possible talent in any given area...," McCarthy said in the AutoExec interview.

McCarthy was a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and received a law degree from the Georgetown University School of Law.

McCarthy Inducted Into Automotive Hall of Fame

April 2002 - Frank McCarthy, president of NADA for 33 years until his death in Feb. 2001, was recently inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. His citation reads, "Frank McCarthy provided leadership for the association in such areas as industry relations, dealership operations, and management education, public affairs, and the NAD Charitable Foundation." Other 2002 inductees were: FIAT chairman Giovanni Agnelli, car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, tire developers Andre and Edouard Michelin, NASCAR racer Richard Petty and groundbreaking Chrysler engineer Owen Skelton. The Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Mich., is the only industry-wide means to honor the men and women of the global motor vehicle and related industries. It is dedicated to preserving the history of mobility by celebrating the creativity, toil and genius of the individual.

NADA Headquarters Named In Honor of Frank McCarthy

NADA renamed its McLean, Virginia headquarters "The Frank E. McCarthy Building" in honor of the association's longtime president. In attendance at the Sept. 10, 2001 building dedication ceremony were McCarthy's family and NADA members from across the country. The Frank E. McCarthy Building is located at 8400 Westpark Drive in McLean, Virginia.

McCarthy Memorial Fund Created to Support Education, Mobility

In May 2001, NADA announced the creation of the Frank E. McCarthy Memorial Fund under the National Automobile Dealers Charitable Foundation to honor the memory of the late NADA President.

Mrs. Frank E. McCarthy (Pat) chairs the committee that determines fund distribution, per the family's wishes. Earnings from gifts to the memorial fund will be directed to the following priorities: scholarships; vehicle transportation needs for physically challenged individuals and others in need of mobility; and automotive and economic education programs.

Individual and corporate gifts are tax-deductible, a three-year pledge program is available, and all donors are designated a "Friend of the Frank E. McCarthy Memorial Fund." Checks made out to "NADCF" with "McCarthy Memorial Fund" in the memo line, may be sent to:

National Automobile Dealers Charitable Foundation
8400 Westpark Drive, MS 22
McLean, VA 22102.

For information, call (800) 248-6232, Ext. 7102, or email

McCarthy with Ford Motor
Company's Edsel Ford

McCarthy testifies before Congress
in 1968 (with dealer Jack Pohanka,
at right)

McCarthy, seen here with children at Tysons Corner Play and Learn in 1988, played a major role in building the first business-sponsored day-care center in an office park in the Washington, D.C.-metropolitan area.

McCarthy golfing with
President George H.W. Bush

McCarthy with Sen. Bob Dole

National Automobile Dealers Charitable Foundation chairman Bob Mallon (left) presents the International Freedom of Mobility Award to Pat McCarthy and Frank McCarthy in Feb. 2001.