Sam Swope: The Man Behind the Slogan


by Melissa Swan

Posted on November 14, 2012 at 7:31 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 15 at 1:15 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Recently, when I toured the vast Swope Auto Center on Hurstbourne Parkway with Sam Swope,  I realized two things.   This place has a lot of cars.   Four Thousand cars on the lots, according to Swope.

I also realized Sam Swope is funny guy.  For instance, when he hears criticism of car dealers he will tell you, "In the Watergate scandals no less than nine attorneys went to prison and not one automobile dealer.

But it's this line he made famous in Louisville, "Nobody Walks Away." 

Swope says, "I'm going to take credit for that one.  It was just an idea for an ad.  It just took so well that we kept it.  We still have it and will use if for another 60 years."

Swope's love of cars can be traced to early childhood.   His love of the sale can be traced to high school and a 1931 Model "A" Ford.

Swope says,"I bought it for $90.  I sold it for $120.  I thought this beats working."

The Swope dynasty was born in Elizabethtown, Ky.   Sam and a partner bought the Plymouth/Dodge dealership in 1952 and 3 years later sales had increased 700 percent.  

Even during tough times Swope seems to have kept his sense of humor.  When one of his dealerships burned to the ground he brought in more cars and advertised a special "no overhead" sale.

Swope says, "We had no overhead because we had not ceiling."

But the man well known for a sales slogan is also known for his donations.  There's the Sam Swope Care Center at the Masonic Homes on Frankfort Ave.

Swope says, "It serves a useful purpose for older people.  Someday, I might be one."

He's a long time donor to the Boy Scouts and he recently gave a million dollars to the University of Louisville.

About his donations Swope says, "I couldn't hope to repay everything that's been done for me if I live to be 100."

For Kosair Charities Swope combines two loves.  He helps children and he rides motorcycles.   He's been riding for 40 years.

Swope says, "There are those who have suggested that it is time for me to hang it up.  But, I'm not quite ready, not quite ready."

 His charity rides alone have raised more than a million dollars.  Plus, for the past few years, Swope also has lead charity rides near his home in Florida.  

But the salesman, always ready with a one-liner, doesn't like to talk about the amount he's given away.  And he doesn't like talking about something else.

 As a Navy diver, Swope had the dangerous job of dismantling mines laid by German soldiers in American harbors.

When I first asked about his World War II experience he clearly didn't want to talk about it.   Swope did says, "You think about those days and they weren't happy days for anybody."

But happy days are here for Sam Swope.  We talked two days before his big event.  At 86, Swope, a widower, married Marlys Wearren. 

His reason for marrying again late in life he puts quite simply, "Because I love her and she loves me and we think it's going to make us both very happy."

When Swope isn't with his new wife or out on his motorcycle, you just might find him at a Sam Swope dealership selling a car.   The day we talked he was driving a  $53,000 Cadillac.  When I was stunned by the price tag he had a quick response.

Swope says, "That's before our whale-sized trade-in and friendly discount!