Jack Davis Receives NAAA Auctioneer Award
National Auto Auction Association honors auctioneer’s career of a half century

Jack DavisINDIANAPOLIS, Ind.— Jack Davis has received the National Auto Auction Association (NAAA) Bernie Hart Memorial Auctioneer Award for 2013. The association, which represents more than 300 auto auction members in North America, presented the award at its 65th annual convention this month in Indianapolis, Ind.

A successful career of more than a half century that began as a boyhood fascination with hearing auctioneers on the radio earned Davis the award, named in honor of Bernie Hart, who served as NAAA’s executive director for more than 30 years before retiring in 1988, the annual award recognizes the industry’s most visible person.

“Jack Davis commands attention on the block, not only because he’s a tall man wearing a cowboy hat, but because he has a positive, upbeat personality, a great sense of humor and the ability to motivate anybody,” noted the owner and general manager of Indianapolis Car Exchange Danny Hockett, who has known the auctioneer since the mid-1960s. “With his entertaining stories, two-million-dollar smile and charming southern drawl, Jack is a superstar who can just grab a crowd’s attention and mesmerize them.”

Growing up during the Great Depression and the Second World War in Highlandville, Missouri, Davis loved listening to auctioneers Tony Thornton and Bill Hagel advertise sales on the radio. In 1945 at the age of 13, he convinced his father to let him leave school early one day to visit a local sale barn. Noting his continued presence and interest, the owner allowed Davis to handle the sales of chickens, fence posts, milk cans — any kind of miscellaneous items sold prior to the livestock sales. After about six weeks Jack was asked to sell cattle, which he did while attending high school, graduating in 1949.

One day Tony Thornton, who taught at the auction school founded by legendary auctioneer Col. Joe Reisch in Mason City, Iowa, came to a livestock sale. He asked Davis about where he received his auctioneering education, and when the boy told him he’d had no formal training, Thornton offered him a chance to attend the Reisch school. It cost $100 for two weeks. Davis graduated Dec. 16, 1950.

Two years later Davis married Thornton’s daughter, Reba Maxine, just as he was drafted to serve his country with the outbreak of the Korean conflict. From 1952 to 1954, Davis was a U.S. Army instructor on heavy artillery and a drill sergeant at Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas. He was slated to go to Korea but his pregnant wife begged his superiors to let him stay to be present when his only child was born.

After his military service, his family moved to Springfield, Missouri, where Davis traveled announcing rodeos and horse shows as well as a variety of auctions. His father-in-law and a partner owned an auction in Richmond, Indiana, called Motor Oilings. They hired Jack to travel to 22 states closing out upside-down, out-of-trust dealerships.

Later, Jimmy Cotton, Ray Clark and B.R. McCracken came to Missouri to buy horses and heard Davis. Each offered Davis work at their automobile auctions in Dyer and Indianapolis, Indiana, and Chicago. Not yet 30 years, Davis moved his family to Indianapolis where he began a 37-year career traveling twice a week to Dyer and Chicago.

When Davis began contemplating retirement, Hockett convinced him that with his talent the time had not come to stop doing what he loves, so Davis drives once a week from his Madisonville, Kentucky, home to Indianapolis where he continues the call of the auctioneer.

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