Hall of Honor

Entrepreneurship isn't about fame, and it isn't entirely about fortune either. We do what we do because we are independent, driven, and creative. We measure our success in the realization of our vision and in our capacity to grow and adapt regardless of what the market throws at us. Those who do this exceptionally well become notable business leaders, and they have earned the right to be recognized and celebrated. The Society of Entrepreneurs sponsors the Entrepreneurial Hall of Honor so that the region's most exceptional -- even legendary -- entrepreneurs receive the recognition that is due them. The individuals who are featured in the Hall of Honor have, without question, reshaped their industries, reminding us that entrepreneurs are the heart that drives business innovation. The Society also wants to provide others with access to the stories and insights of these pioneers, so that others can benefit from their outstanding success. We invite you to visit the Hall of Honor online, where you can enjoy multimedia presentations on each of our inductees and find links to their business web sites. A measure of the exceedingly high prestige of being included in the Hall of Honor is that it is not an annual award. The Hall of Honor is only expanded if and when an individual has indisputably demonstrated the accomplishments necessary for such exclusive recognition.    

J.R. (Pitt) Hyde, III

Malone and Hyde CEO AutoZone Founder Joseph R. “Pitt” Hyde III is a nationally known entrepreneur and philanthropist whose leadership has transformed his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. After he graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1965 with a degree in economics, he joined Malone & Hyde, the wholesale food company founded by his grandfather in 1907 and he expanded its specialty retailing division into drug stores, sporting goods stores, supermarkets, and auto parts stores. Under his leadership, the company became the United States’ third largest wholesale food distributor with annual sales of more than $3 billion. He was the first president of Super D Drugs, and in 1968, he was elected president of Malone & Hyde, and in 1972, he was elected chairman.  For 10 years, he was the youngest CEO on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1979, Mr. Hyde established AutoZone Inc. as part of Malone & Hyde.  He guided its growth from one store in Fort Smith, Arkansas to a retail auto parts giant with more than 4,800 stores in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Mexico. He retired as CEO and chairman in 1997 after building AutoZone to become the largest retailer of auto parts and accessories in the U.S, and he remains on the AutoZone board of directors. Mr. Hyde is owner and president of Pittco Holdings Inc. and his broad portfolio of investments includes his position as general partner of Schaedle Worthington Hyde Properties, LP, an Atlanta-based real estate company that specializes in multifamily housing and limited service hotel development.  Mr. Hyde is chairman of GTx Inc, a publicly held biopharmaceutical company...

Frederick W. Smith

FedEx Corporation Chairman/President/CEO An honoree in the Society of Entrepreneurs’ esteemed Hall of Honor, Frederick W. Smith is responsible for what is arguably one of the most recognizable names in the world – FedEx. What is today a major operation, shuffling millions of packages around the globe on a daily basis, all began in 1965, when Fred was a Yale undergraduate. He wrote a term paper proposing an airfreight system that could accommodate time-sensitive shipments such as medicines, computer parts and electronics. He realized that, in order to be effective, his system would have to function at night, and FedEx officially began operations on April 17, 1973, with the launch of 14 small aircraft from Memphis International Airport. Today, Frederick W. Smith is Chairman, President, and CEO of FedEx Corporation, the entity that encompasses all FedEx operating companies, including FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight, and FedEx Office. Smith has served on the boards of several large public companies and is co-chairman of the U.S. World War II Memorial Project. He is also a member of the Business Roundtable, the Business Council, the CATO Institute, the Mayo Foundation, and former Chairman of both the U.S. Air Transport Association and the International Air Transport Association. He has served as the Chairman of the U.S.-China Business Council and is the current chairman of the French-American Business Council. Description of Business: With annual revenues of $38 billion, FedEx Corp. is the premier global provider of transportation, e-commerce and supply chain management services. The company offers integrated business solutions through a network of subsidiaries operating independently, including: FedEx Express, the world’s largest express...

Hall of Honor: In Memoriam

Carlos H. Cantu

The ServiceMaster Company President/CEO (retired) The ServiceMaster Company was recently named by Fortune as the country’s #1 most admired outsourcing company, and Carlos Cantu who served as the Senior Chairman, earned a great deal of credit for leading the company to where it is today. Carlos joined ServiceMaster in 1986, and he became CEO in 1994. Building upon the original franchise model, he worked to form an outstanding network of quality consumer service companies that operate under such well-known names as TruGreen-ChemLawn, Terminix, Merry Maids, American Home Shield and Rescue Rooter. Mr. Cantu’s business sense has proved invaluable to his peers, as he serves on a number of corporate boards, such as Exelon Corporation, First Tennessee National Corporation, and El Valor in Chicago. He was also quite active in the world of civic and charitable organizations. The honors he can count as his include the Horatio Alger Award in 1997, the Ellis Island Medal of Freedom in May 2000, and the Society of Entrepreneurs 2000 Entrepreneur of the Year. Description of Business: ServiceMaster is a portfolio of quality service companies operating under leading brands that currently include Terminix, TruGreen ChemLawn, TruGreen LandCare, American Residential Services, Rescue Rooter, American Mechanical Services, ServiceMaster Clean, American Home Shield, AmeriSpec, Merry Maids, Furniture Medic and The ServiceMaster Home Service Center. Year Business Founded: 1947 Year Inducted: 1992 Thoughts on Entrepreneurship: “The USA may aptly be described as the cradle of the free enterprise system. We are the most affluent country in the world today for two simple reasons: one, the men and women who have demonstrated the willingness to organize, operate and assume risk...

Kemmons Wilson

Kemmons Wilson, Inc. Chairman An honoree in the Society of Entrepreneurs’ Hall of Honor, the story of Kemmons Wilson’s Holiday Inns is one that is well known. It started in the summer of 1951 on a Wilson family vacation when Kemmons lamented the fact that it was nearly impossible to find affordable, reliable lodging. His idea was to build a brand name that could be trusted, one that a traveler could count on to be consistent in price and quality – thus the birth of the Holiday Inn motel chain. The first one was built in August 1952 on Summer Avenue in Memphis, and today Holiday Inns can be found all over the world. Kemmons Wilson has gone on to become one of the most respected businessmen in the nation, known as “The Father of the Modern Innkeeping Industry.” He has spent his career offering tips for success to entrepreneurs with their own dreams. He said, “The business world of today, and the future, will always have a place and need for entrepreneurs. I cannot imagine how we can achieve true progress without them.” Description of Business: Hotels, shopping centers, apartments and homebuilder Year Business Founded: 1935 Year Inducted: 1992 Thoughts on Entrepreneurship: “‘The business world of today, and the future, will always have a place and need for the entrepreneur, I cannot imagine how we can achieve true progress without them. It is the entrepreneur who takes the risks necessary to turn new ideas into realities. A person has to take risks to achieve. These very risks inspire creativity and the desire to succeed-two of the most important...