The large, ceremonial checks are hard to miss at Thornhill Ford Lincoln in Chapmanville. They are displayed as reminders that with success comes the responsibility to give back.
Dealership owner Wally Thornhill, whose Thornhill Automotive Group includes several other car dealerships in Southern West Virginia, is a native son who has never forgotten his roots.
His generosity and commitment to the communities his dealerships serve are among the reasons that Thornhill is West Virginia’s nominee for the 2020 TIME Dealer of the Year award, which is presented in partnership with Ally Financial.
The West Virginia Automobile Dealers Association nominated Thornhill, who will travel to Las Vegas next month for a ceremony at the 103rd annual National Automobile Dealers Association Show. The TIME Dealer of the Year will be named, and all of the nominees will be honored.
Dealers are nominated by the executives of state and metro dealer associations around the country. The award is sponsored by TIME in partnership with Ally Financial, and in cooperation with the NADA.
WVADA President Jared Wyrick said Thornhill fits the criteria for the TIME Dealer of the Year Award nomination.
“Wally’s longstanding commitment to community service definitely put him in that category that Ally was looking for,” Wyrick said.
Thornhill is also an active WVADA board member, and “he’s very active in the legislative process,” Wyrick said.
Wyrick said there are 16,000 dealerships nationwide, and Thornhill is among the 49 dealership owners who were nominated.
“We’re very proud to have him represent West Virginia this year.”
Prior to a Jan. 6 luncheon hosted by Ally Financial at Thornhill Ford Lincoln, Thornhill said he is accepting the nomination with pride on behalf of automobile dealers across the state that he helps to support as a WVADA executive board member.
“It’s a very big honor, and I’m very proud to do it, and I’m very proud to work hard for the dealers with laws, lobbying and all that we do as an association,” said Thornhill, who is also the NADA PAC state chairman.
And as a local business owner, Thornhill said it’s important to him to be a generous and supportive part of the community.
Motioning to the ceremonial checks hanging in the showroom, Thornhill said helping community organizations and schools gives him great joy.
Groups that Thornhill contributes to include: Kiwanis International; Logan Civic Little League; Boy Scouts of America Buckskin Council; Logan County Chamber of Commerce; Logan County Parks & Recreation Committee; First Presbyterian Church of Logan; the Logan High School Improvement Council and local schools for uniforms, books, backpacks and more.
He also provides vehicles to athletics coaches at West Virginia University and Marshall University.
Thornhill said he’s most proud of his work developing the Chief Logan Recreation Center in Chapmanville, for which he currently sits on the board. The center features an indoor competition swimming pool, tennis courts and workout rooms.
“The local recreation center was built to get more young kids and families out and exercising for better health,” he said. “It has also opened up the availability for more sports teams to be added to local schools, including swimming and soccer. A family of four can be a member for $1 a day.”
Thornhill has been self-employed since age 16. He graduated from Logan County High School in 1975 and earned an associate degree in science and general business at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, also in Logan, in 1985.
He began working in the eighth grade, under the supervision of his father, doing auto body work. In high school, he started his own gas station and auto repair business and continued to run the establishment while attending college.
Thornhill entered the car business in 1996, when he bought into a local Pontiac Buick GMC dealership — the same store where his father had been an auto body technician in the 1960s. Thornhill helped turn the business around and became the dealer principal in 1998.
Today, his Thornhill Automotive Group oversees four new car dealerships: Thornhill GM Superstore, Thornhill Ford Lincoln, Thornhill Mitsubishi in Chapmanville and Thornhill Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Logan. His daughter, Sydney, and son, Nathan, are dealer executives for the stores.