Jim Moran was a swimming enthusiast, race promoter and successful entrepreneur who was inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1985 as an Honour Administrator. He was also an International Swimming Hall of Fame Gold Medallion Award recipient in 1995.
As an entrepreneur, he established the largest Ford dealership in the world and sponsored the Jim Moran Lake Michigan Swim for seven years in Chicago, USA in the 1960’s that attracted the best professional marathon swimmers from around the world. Prize money ranged up to US$25,000 and local television and radio stations provided hourly updates on the swimmers' progress.
The International Swimming Hall of Fame had the following words to describe Moran as its 1995 Gold Medallion Award recipient:
Jim Moran was born in Chicago in 1918, the son of Irish and German immigrants. Jim lost his father at an early age and began pumping gas at a neighborhood gas station to help support his mother and sister. In 1939, Jim was able to purchase his own station for $360. After a number of years of working at a gas station, 16 hours a day, seven days a week, he opened a used car lot. This led to a small Hudson automobile dealership which he built to become the largest Hudson store in the nation. In 1966, Moran established Courtesy Ford and through his marketing and promotion innovations, it grew to become the largest Ford dealership in the world.
In the early years of television, Moran was the first dealer to ever advertise new and used cars on television. At one time, he sponsored three live shows a week, handling the host duties and all live commercials himself. Throughout the Midwest viewers tuned in and bought cars from "Jim Moran, the Courtesy Man." But Jim Moran also gave a great deal back to the people of his community. For many years he donated countless hours to organize and host fund-raising telethons for charities such as the City of Hope, the American Cancer Society, and the Heart Fund.
It was during this time that swimming became a part of Jim's life. When he was 41 years old, two of his close friends died of heart attacks while playing handball, one of Jim's favorite activities. His wife feared that handball was too stressful and encouraged him to quit playing. He began swimming instead and has continued to swim regularly ever since.
As his interest in swimming grew, he sponsored the Jim Moran Lake Michigan Swims for seven years in Chicago. It not only promoted long distance and marathon swimming, but generated a tremendous amount of publicity for his automobile dealership. Long distance swimmers, including the legendary Abou Heif of Egypt, came from all over the world to swim for prizes that ranged up to $25,000. The race was front page news, and local television and radio stations provided hourly updates on the swimmers' progress.
The 1960's brought a move to South Florida, where Moran opened a Pontiac dealership in Hollywood. Once again, this soon became the largest Pontiac dealership in the nation. In 1968, Moran accepted an offer to represent the Toyota Motor Company in five southeast states and formed Southeast Toyota Distributors. Today, it is the largest, private automobile distributor in the world and is one of 19 auto related companies comprising JM Family Enterprises.
Moran's company was recently ranked by Forbes Magazine as the 34th largest privately owned company in the United States. He works daily at his duties as chairman of the board, and JM Family Enterprises remains very active in community organizations, helping those in need throughout the Southeast. Moran still enjoys the relaxing exercise of his daily swims. While swimming laps he finds time to be creative and think of things that can be done to improve business. Swimming continues to be an important part of his life.