J. Dallas dort
Josiah Dallas Dort (February 27, 1861 – May 17, 1925)
Of all men who helped build Flint and Genesee County in to an economic powerhouse, none compared to Dort when it came to the combination of civic pride and capital growth. Teaming with Billy Durant in 1886 to build the Flint Road Cart Company, and later the Durant Dort firm he set the stage for the world to come. He grew up in Inkster, Michigan and attended the Scotch Settlement School with Henry Ford, eventually migrating to Flint. Although neither Durant or Dort knew the first thing about manufacturing carriages, they both possessed certain elemental skills that would make the business a success. Perhaps the most important of those elements was their innate ability to divide the work appropriately. Durant, the consummate salesman handled growth and expansion, while Dort focused on organization, personnel, and management. It was a formula that worked like magic.
Dort focused heavily on improving the life of those who toiled for the firm, and the city that it was housed in. He became known as “The First Citizen of Flint’ for good reason. Land he owned became the college and cultural center, and the entire East Side of the city. He worked with the architect of New York’s Central Park to develop the Flint Parks system, which became world class. He promoted the arts in general and music in particular, and founded the Community Music Association, which later became the Flint Institute of Music.
Dort was an early and aggressive benefactor and organizer of programs that would benefit people far beyond what they did to earn their pay. He was the developer of the ‘Sick and Accident Relief Association’ at the carriage company. Employees paid an association fee, and in return the company would pay for any medical bills incurred by the employee. He said that the association was instituted “not only to protect its members in the event of sickness, accident or death, but through its Trustees and by means of its club or other features, to bring the whole body of vehicle and accessory workers into closer relationship and understanding with the factory management.” By 1922, the program’s name had changed to the Industrial Mutual Association (better known as the IMA in Flint), and had expanded to include athletic teams, sponsored trips, and programs for members, their wives and children.
Dort, together with Durant, and as a part of the Durant Dort team built the carriage maker in to the worlds largest. It formed the financial and structural basis for the development of Buick when Durant took that over and brought it to Flint. Dort was a major player in Buick’s growth, and as a result the development General Motors. He also played a major role in attracting a young man named Charles Stewart Mott and his Weston-Mott firm to Flint. When Durant was ousted from GM and came back to Flint to invent a new company called Chevrolet, there was Dort again providing management oversight, corporate leadership, and capital.
When Durant and Dort mysteriously ended their business relationship (but by all accounts not their long friendship) in 1915, Dort embarked on a new adventure creating the Dort Motor Car Company. The firm lasted for 10 years, and at point was the 13th largest in the nation. Dort Motor enthusiasts still make the pilgrimage to Flint to see where the object of their love was invented, and to visit the offices of the man who envisioned it, and so many other truly revolutionary and wonderful creations. The city he helped build has had it’s ups and downs, but as for the ups, much of them can be credited at least in part to the man whose heart was even bigger than his sizable brain and pocketbook.
Speaking of Flint late in his life he said: ““Nothing could possibly mean more to me than Flint. Outside of the love of my family, this is worth more to me than anything else on earth … Others may say that they like this, that, or the other place … but I want to say to you that serving Flint is good enough for me, and serving in Flint suits me, and I will live and die in Flint, I hope among the people whom I love.”
Paired with Durant and Mott, Dort forms the triumvirate from which billions upon billions of dollars have been made and transferred between millions of people over multiple generations, and the landmarks that have improved the lives of countless of millions of people not just in Flint and Genesee County but indeed around the world. He was a man of his time, his industry, and most assuredly the most truest devotee of Flint ever.