Automotive Hall of Fame: Figures That Changed the Industry

Jane Lu
Oct 14, 2021 · 4 min read
The Automotive Hall of Fame honors individuals who made major strides for the auto industry. This includes people who helped advance car technology and made the world of vehicles more inclusive.
As a result of the pandemic, the Hall of Fame was unable to have a 2020 induction ceremony. Recently, they were finally able to honor inductees from the 2020 and 2021 classes. Here are some of the important figures who have changed the industry.
Three trophies lie side by side and cast shadows on an orange background.
Figures in the Automotive Hall of Fame helped make positive changes in the industry.

Helene Rother

Helene Rother was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame for her contributions to automotive design. The Automotive Hall of Fame reported that in 1942, she became one of the first women to work as a car designer when she joined General Motors. She went on to have a long and prosperous design career following World War II.
Outside of this milestone, the story of Helene Rother is one of tenacity. Rother was born in Germany, and she fled to the United States with her daughter in 1941.

Charlie Wiggins

According to the Automotive Hall of Fame, Charlie Wiggins was an African-American race car driver and engineer who helped break barriers in the industry. Wiggins challenged segregation in racing and found success in the Colored Speedway Association. He was a frequent winner from 1924 to 1936.
As an engineer, Wiggins owned and operated a repair shop in Indianapolis. He constructed his own racing vehicles and contributed to the engineering of the 1934 Indianapolis 500-winning car.
Wiggins supported and encouraged young Black drivers to compete and was well-respected among the racing community. He was an inspiring figure during a time when prejudice was rampant.

Charlie Richard (C.R.) Patterson and Frederick Douglass Patterson

This father and son duo has been inducted into the Hall of Fame for founding the world's first Black-owned automotive company.
Charlie Richard Patterson was born into slavery but went on to become wealthy and influential. He was a strong supporter of education and encouraged his children to learn as much as they could. He founded a carriage company in 1873 in Greenfield, OH. The company would later be known as C.R. Patterson & Sons and sell automobiles.
Patterson's son, Frederick Douglass Patterson, was named after the famed abolitionist. His Automotive Hall of Fame profile emphasizes how he spent his life breaking down boundaries. He was Ohio State University's first Black football player. Five years after his father's death, Frederick Douglass Patterson would release the Patterson-Greenfield automobile in 1915.

Tom Gallagher

Tom Gallagher is highly regarded for his leadership of the Genuine Parts Company which owns NAPA Auto Parts. His advocacy for drivers, store employees, and the aftermarket industry helped him garner a lasting positive reputation.
The Automotive Hall of Fame noted that Gallagher's commitment to advocacy can be seen in his work to promote the Right to Repair. This allows drivers to repair or modify vehicles with parts other than ones that the original manufacturers select and sell.
These inductees spent their lives overcoming barriers and making the automotive space more welcoming to everyone. Because of these contributions to the industry and the world, they earned their places in the Automotive Hall of Fame.
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