The only thing harder than making a fortune is giving it away wisely, said the world’s first Black Rolls-Royce dealer.
Thomas A. Moorehead is CEO and President of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Sterling, and also owns the BMW-Mini dealership in Sterling as well as Harley Davidson Washington DC.…by André Chung #_AC19274
Thomas Moorehead’s modest childhood in segregated Monroe, Louisiana, offered no clue to the luxury he eventually would market to others and savor himself; nor did his preparation for academic life. Moorehead was just a few credits shy of his Ph.D. in social work at the University of Michigan when a fraternity brother named James Bradley offered him a surprising challenge: Go sell cars.
“ I thought car dealers represented an image that didn’t fit me: big plaid jackets, they smoked cigarettes and talked fast,” Moorehead told Urban News Service. But Moorehead gave the opportunity some thought. He visited Detroit, toured dealerships and changed his mind.
“I really felt like I had walked onto Wall Street,” Moorehead said. “I saw well-dressed men in nice suits and bow ties doing really great things.” Thanks to Bradley’s ongoing guidance and his own strenuous effort, Moorehead thrived in his unexpected profession.
He sold Buicks, Isuzus, BMWs and even MINI Coopers. Rolls-Royce executives eventually noticed his track record and signed him in 2013 as their first Black `dealer, based in Sterling, Virginia — a Washington, D.C. suburb.
Moorehead began expanding beyond automobiles in 2006. He acquired the first of six hotels, the Marriott Residence Inn in National Harbor, Maryland. His real-estate portfolio now includes more than 40 properties. As Moorehead’s businesses flourished, his family’s appreciation for education stayed top of mind. In 2004, Moorehead and his wife established the Joyce and Thomas A. Moorehead Foundation to support students, families and nonprofit organizations in northern Virginia.
Moorehead’s other charitable endeavors include a Howard University scholarship created in his mother’s name and another with the Kappa Scholarship Endowment Fund that honors his father-in-law. Beyond education, Moorehead has assisted the African American Network Against Alzheimer’s.
For the 71-year-old Moorehead, the influence of his family and his mentor, James Bradley, keeps him grounded. Moorehead’s grandfather taught him the importance of faith and worship. As Moorehead said he told him: “ I don’t care what you do. I want you in someone’s church on Sunday.”
Moorehead looks back at his lifetime of achievement. “I hope my grandfather would be proud of what I’ve created with my businesses and the importance of giving back to the community,” he said. “And, I don’t care how bad I feel, I go to church every Sunday morning.”