1906 - 1989
Holmes Tuttle was a successful businessman and politician and an enigmatic figure in Oklahoma history. Despite never holding public office, Tuttle had great influence on several notable political figures.
He was born in 1906 in Tuttle, Oklahoma, a town named after his father, James Harley Tuttle. The farming and ranching community was developed on Chickasaw land purchased from the Colbert family.
Tuttle began his business career at the Ford Assembly Plant in Oklahoma City in 1923. He was 17. He then traveled to California at the age of 23 by hopping a freight train to Los Angeles. There, he again worked for the Ford Motor Company as a parts manager.
He opened his first car dealership, Holmes Tuttle Inc., in 1945. The business was very successful, eventually expanding to include 14 dealerships in California and Arizona. He became one of the most successful auto dealers and businessmen in the nation.
Tuttle was also very involved in politics during this time. In 1952, he campaigned for President Dwight Eisenhower. He also worked on the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater and was a delegate to every Republican National Convention from 1960 to 1984.
Additionally, Tuttle is credited with convincing Ronald Reagan to give the speech that launched his political career. Given at a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser for Barry Goldwater, the speech is known as one of the most successful political debuts in American history.
In 1966, Tuttle encouraged Ronald Reagan to run for California Governor. A member of Reagan’s so-called “kitchen cabinet,” Tuttle was an influential voice on important policy issues well into President Reagan’s second term.
Tuttle never attended college, but eventually received an honorary doctorate from Pepperdine University, and in 1955, he helped found Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California.
He was also a director of Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles and was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1975.
Tuttle died in 1989 at the age of 83, leaving behind a legacy in both business and blood. His son, Robert Tuttle, served as ambassador to England under President George W. Bush. His grandnephew, Jim Click, is one of the biggest car dealers in Arizona and also played football for Oklahoma State University from 1965-1967.
Tuttle was a fine example of how hard work and dedication can lead to success in any field.