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Atkinson was business and community leader

By Michael Butler

He ran the business that beared his name on Gilmer Avenue for 38 years in Tallassee. Ben Atkinson built a name for himself in the automotive business. He died on Tuesday, Sept. 21. He was 77.

Atkinson retired in 2015 after operating Ben Atkinson Motors since 1987. He and his wife Gwen worked together at the successful operation that had an old-fashioned country atmosphere with church bench seating. The slogan on advertisements for some time was, "The fat boys with the skinny deals."

Atkinson was born in 1944 in Montgomery. A graduate of Chilton County High School, he got into the car business at Clanton Motors but spent most of his career in Tallassee after the acquisition of the dealership then called, Town and Country Motors.

"I came to Tallassee in December of '86, but it was approved in March of 1987," Atkinson said of the purchase of the Tallassee businesss in a WTLS radio interview after announcing his retirement in 2015. Town and Country was owned by Ronnie Baynes and Bobby Payne. "The only thing I knew (about Tallassee) was it was a little town on the way to Auburn to watch a ball game once in a while."

Not just a businessman, Atkinson was also a farmer and "cowboy" as written in his obituary, "Ben loved cattle and his farm in East Tallassee."

Atkinson was a member at First Baptist Church in Tallassee where he served as a deacon. Services were held on Friday at the church.

Dana Haynes worked for Atkinson for 23 years and now owns City Collision.

"Never in my tenure there did Ben and I have a cross word," Haynes said. "I made many friends at that dealership and we were all family there. If I could go back and do it all over again I would. The one thing (Ben) always told me was his about his faith in God.He always stressed that if I put God first in my life and business that everything would be okay."

Erik Creswell is the general sales manager at Tallassee Automotive, formerly Ben Atkinson Motors. He was hired by Atkinson in 1998 and, like Haynes, remained close to Atkinson after his retirement.

"Mr. Ben was like a father to me he treated me like one of his own," Creswell said. "I know he truly loved the Lord Jesus as his personal savior and tried everyday to bring me and countless others closer to the Lord that was his life work. This community meant so much to him. He gave so much, more than people will ever realize. He will be missed, but I know he is where he always wanted to be - in heaven with our Lord Jesus Christ."

Contributions may be made to First Baptist Church Phase IV Building Fund or Benevolence Fund, 1279 Friendship Road, Tallassee, Alabama 36078.

Atkinson presenting the keys to a vehicle for the Drug Abuse Resistance Program (DARE) to Tallassee police officer Kelly Townsend in 1998. Employees from Ben Atkinson Motors are pictured with Tallassee Police Chief Randy Yarbrough, Tallassee Mayor Bobby Payne, Brad Parker of Parker Tire and Service Center and other dignitaries.