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Clint Engel

After 57 years, Charlie Loudermilk retires as Aaron's chairman

 Image of Charlie LoudermilkCharlie Loudermilk
ATLANTA — Charlie Loudermilk, who founded rent-to-own giant Aaron's 57 years ago, will retire as the company's chairman in mid-September and become chairman emeritus.

Aaron's has not yet named a new chairman.
Loudermilk and a partner founded Aaron Rents in 1955, borrowing $500 to buy folding chairs and then rent them to auction houses for 10 cents a day, according to a release. The company was renamed Aaron's in 2009 and now has more than 1,985 company-operated and franchised stores in the United States and Canada.

Aaron's is No. 16 on Furniture/Today's Top 25 U.S. furniture and bedding retailers report with estimated 2011 furniture and bedding sales of $848 million. The figures do not include other categories sold and leased by the company, including electronics and appliances.

In a release, Loudermilk, 85, said, "I never dreamed that Aaron's would grow into a publicly traded company employing more than 11,000 people and serving millions of Americans.

"I have given my heart and soul to this company over the past 57 years, and I'm truly proud of everything it has become."

He called the decision to retire the most difficult he as ever made but said it was time to "focus on personal endeavors that bring me joy."

"I am deeply indebted to the entire Aaron's family for their ongoing love and support. I'm thrilled to be retiring with the confidence that Aaron's will carry on its legacy of community, quality and superior service," he said.

Aaron's director Ray Robinson noted Loudermilk's "history of excellence" in business as well as in the community and with his family. And Aaron's CEO and President Ron Allen called him "truly one of the nation's great success stories while never forgetting his roots."

In 2011, Loudermilk was presented with the Four Pillar Tribute award by the Council for Quality Growth. The Atlanta City Council voted to change the name of Buckhead Triangle Park to Charlie Loudermilk Park in 2009 in honor of his contributions to economic development in the area.

In 2008, he received the Association of Progressive Rental Organization's 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award and was named the Business to Business 2008 Philanthropist of the Year.

Loudermilk also worked with the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, leading the development effort of The Loudermilk Center, a downtown Atlanta meeting and events venue for nonprofit organizations, civic groups and the business community. He has donated more than $18 million to local charities and causes and has given donations totaling more than $7 million to his alma mater, the University of North Carolina and $3 million to the Archbold Medical Center in Thomasville, Ga.

In addition to other monetary gifts, Loudermilk acquired three homes on 15 acres for homeless children in Demorest, Ga., naming it "Jacob's Ladder," in tribute to his father, "Jake" Loudermilk.

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