Founding NADA President George W. Browne and his Chicago-Minneapolis-Kansas City-Grand Rapids organizing board breathed life into NADA in 1917, but it took another Midwesterner to build the meat and bones of the organization.
Fred W.A. Vesper, a St. Louis Buick dealer, was selected to succeed Browne by the 138 delegates attending NADA's first annual meeting in Chicago in the winter of 1918.
Vesper wasn't one of the nine charter NADA board members elected in July 1917. But as one of the original 30 auto dealers who had gathered in Washing-ton, D.C., in May 1917 to protest a pending federal luxury tax, he was a legitimate founding father.
More to the point, Vesper was energetic, far more well-traveled than most Americans then and had been an executive for two plow manufacturers, as well as John Deere and Buick Motor Co. before becoming a major auto dealer.
And he was an organizational whiz. That's exactly what a neophyte nationwide group needed if it was to represent 15,000 independent businessmen selling 350 brands of automobiles in a 3,000-mile-wide country with shockingly bad roads.
To facilitate paying enrollment, Vesper made sure the founding bylaws were amended to allow membership for dealers who were not already enrolled in state or city associations, and to create regional NADA officers to recruit in specific territories.