Military dad influenced son's support of Humble Heroes

by Clay Neely - clay@newnan.com

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Michael Condit, center left, holds a check for $8,000 raised by David Watts, center, for Humble Heroes, founded by Atlanta Police Detective Patrick Apioan, center right.

It's easy for David Watts, former owner of Newnan Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, to name the individual who's had the biggest impact on his life.

'My dad,' Watts said. 'My father was the greatest influence in my life growing up.'

After rattling off the resume of his father's life, it's no mystery how this came to pass.

Growing up only four blocks from Wrigley Field, David Watts' father, Orville J. Watts (he went primarily by O.J.), cast a large shadow for his son. As a member of the 163rd Engineer Combat Battalion, he was on the first line that took Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.

He was shot twice, but only grazed, and was soon back on the front lines with Patton's First and Third armies - participating in the Battle of the Bulge and driving all the way into Germany, spending a total of 330 days on the front lines doing demolition and bridge work for which the 163rd would ultimately become revered.

'He never talked about it until his death,' said Watts.

Like many who served, following his discharge from the military, O.J. Watts then went to college on the GI bill, graduating from the University of Miami with a major in both theology and political science.

From Miami, he found his way to the Secret Service, working presidential detail under President Dwight Eisenhower. Following his experience with the Secret Service, he then applied to the FBI at Quantico, Virginia, and spent the next 33 years as an FBI agent in Chicago and northwest Indiana.

Most of O.J.'s work with the FBI was during the height of the crackdown on organized crime in the 1960s and '70s. While there were some high level people coming in and out of their home (J. Edgar Hoover, for one) there were also numerous trips to safe houses, and the Watts' house was even shot up at one point. It wasn't until his early teens that David realized the magnitude of his father's involvement.

Watts' background and upbringing has influenced his devotion toward the Humble Heroes Foundation, a 501c (3) charity started by Atlanta Police Detective Patrick Apioan and his wife, Sandra.

The Humble Heroes Foundation is committed to assisting police officers and firefighters, and their families, by providing financial and moral support to those who have been seriously injured or fallen ill, while building solid relationships between public servants and the communities they serve.

'Part of my affiliation with this organization was growing up in a law enforcement family,' said Watts, and his dedication toward their cause was evidenced during the Newnan dealership's grand opening last spring.

During the initial two months of the opening, proceeds were donated from every sale for a grand total of $8,000, which benefited Humble Heroes.

Michael Condit is a member of the Newnan Police Department and had used his off-road club, Go Topless, for the past two years to help raise money for Humble Heroes. Condit expressed his appreciation for Humble Heroes and its founder.

'Patrick's even gone outside of Atlanta, even outside of Georgia, with different disasters to help people who are in public safety. If something happened down here, someone would contact me and then I would go through the board of directors with Humble Heroes to get the ball rolling,' said Condit.

Condit's event three years ago was held in downtown Newnan. 

'We did Go Topless down near the Alamo three years ago. We did it as a fundraiser for an injured deputy out of West Virginia who was shot in the spine. It used to be a meet-and-greet for Jeeps, but turned it into a fundraiser. I partnered with Patrick shortly after that. We did it again this year and tied it into the dealership as our main sponsor,' he said.

Condit says that next Go Topless event will be in May.

'It's still not very well-known down here just yet. I know Patrick did something for Chris Landreau, the Coweta County fireman who passed away from cancer in 2011. He did a fundraiser before he passed but that's the only exposure Humble Heroes has had down here so far,' Condit said.

The younger Watts ultimately went on to Purdue for college, where he majored in accounting and marketing, then subsequently went to work for KPMG and was, by luck, assigned to large car dealerships.

Watts went to work for a large dealer group, initially as CFO, and then moved into the operations side, and over the last 20 years he has been involved in various forms of ownership including being a partner in Ascent automotive, a platform of Lexus dealerships in Las Vegas, Ohio and Texas. He has worked with most major franchises - Toyota, Nissan, Ford and GM - in either operations or ownership.

'It's been fantastic,' Watts said of his time with the CDJR dealership in Newnan. 'The community has been so supportive and we were lucky to work with the Chamber of Commerce so early. It's a small town that's very well networked. The Chamber was instrumental in our growth. What usually takes years has only taken just a short time,' said Watts.

CDJR over the last year was involved with fundraising for high schools and charities, he said.

'It's a big part of our commitment to give back. If you're asking the public to do business with you, it needs to be mutual.'

CDJR was recently sold to Terry Taylor but Watts plans to remain part of the Newnan community in the future.

'I believe that Newnan and Coweta, based on the growth of the past and the projected future, is a terrific opportunity for a dealership,' said Watts.



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