In 1966, about the time Tom Shirley and his wife Jo were buying a small Phillips 66 station in Ashford, Linda Young was graduating as valedictorian at Elba High School.
Their careers would twist and turn over the next 50 years, making such an impact that they came together Tuesday night to share a stage as inductees into the Dothan Business Hall of Fame.
Dr. Linda Young, president of the Wallace College system, and Thomas “Tom” Shirley, pioneer of the local Home Oil Distributorship and 25 Hobo Pantry stores, were honored with a banquet and ceremony conducted by the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce at Wiregrass Church in Dothan.
Shirley and Young join 24 other inductees since the Business Hall of Fame launched in 2011. A plaque commemorating their accomplishments will join the others on the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame wall.
After Shirley’s first foray into business in 1966, he and his wife Jo bought a Pure Oil distributorship in 1970, which later became known as Home Oil Company. Home Oil opened its first Hobo Pantry convenience store in 1980. Today, Home Oil operates 25 Hobo Pantry stores and employs more than 200 people.
Shirley also impacted his community through service and investment. He was instrumental in establishing Ashford Academy, established a charity golf tournament in 1990 that has helped raise money for Wiregrass area charities, and has been a longtime sponsor of Dothan’s Downtown Holiday Hoops Classic, which has raised more than $350,000 for Wiregrass schools.
Shirley also helped create Houston County’s Walden gas tax, which returns a portion of gas tax revenue to the community where the gas was purchased.
His biggest accomplishment, however, may have been overcoming prostate cancer in 1989.
Shirley was selected Oilman of the Year by the Alabama Oilmen’s Association in 1979 and is a member of the Petroleum and Convenience Marketers of Alabama Hall of Fame.
After graduating from Elba High School with honors, Young became a product of the two-year college system that would define her career. She received an associate’s degree at Enterprise State Junior College in 1969 and was recognized in the “Who’s Who Among Students in American Junior Colleges” publication. Thirty-one years later, she gave the Silver Anniversary commencement address at Enterprise State.
She earned her doctorate in vocational and adult education in 1982. Ten years later, she was selected as one of the 400 outstanding female graduates during the 100 years since women were first admitted to the university.
She built her skills through holding various positions with Enterprise State and the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education before becoming the first female to head a technical college in Alabama at Sparks State in Eufaula. Sparks merged with Wallace College in 1999 and Young was appointed president of the new institution.
Young currently serves as a member of the Dothan Rotary Club Board of Directors, the Fort Rucker-Wiregrass Chapter of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), the Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corporation, the Flowers Hospital Board and Wiregrass Forum.
Dothan Business Hall of Fame Inductees
2016 – Dr. Linda Young, Tom Shirley
2015 – James Coleman, John Downs, John Edge, Mike Schmitz
2014 – Norma Hanson, Larry Blumberg, John Conti, Larry Register, Dr. Jack Sasser
2013 – Red Dove, Morris Slingluff, Ralph Smith
2012 – Eustace Bishop, William Jesse Forrester, John Glanton Jr., Harry P. Hall, John Watson
2011 – Agnes Simpson, Mack Dove, Dr. Paul Flowers, Jimmy Grant, Wallace Malone Sr., Richmond McClintock, Alfred Saliba