Born into a Memphis family that owned a successful food wholesale business, J.R. ‘Pitt’ Hyde III felt “an opportunity and an obligation” to follow in his father and grandfather’s entrepreneurial footsteps. That drove him to found AutoZone, one of the country’s largest auto parts supply store chains. He also was one of the leaders in the effort to bring the National Basketball Association’s Grizzlies franchise to Memphis and oversees a foundation that provides funding for everything from bicycle trails to the National Civil Rights Museum. Although his family foundation is involved in many different community projects around Memphis, associates say he remains very “hands on” with them. He is, they say, an auto parts executive who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.
Throughout its history, the Volunteer State has been home to many people who have had significant impact on the state, the country and even the world. These include former presidents, other political leaders, captains of industry, soldiers, scientists, inventors, entertainers, athletes and many more. Tri-Star Chronicles is a project dedicated to shining a spotlight on some of those people who have changed history, for good or for bad, over the last half century or so. These are their stories – and, as Tennesseans, our stories as well.