ATLANTA — Robert Charles Loudermilk Sr., who founded the publicly held lease-to-own giant Aaron’s here, died Tuesday from the effects of a stroke. He was 95.
Loudermilk founded Aaron Rents in 1955, after he and a partner borrowed $500 to purchase folding chairs and then rented them for 10 cents a day to auction houses. The company would go on to become one of the nation’s largest furniture, electronics and appliance rent-to-own operators with a mix of company-owned and franchised units.
In 2009, while Loudermilk was still leading the business, Aaron Rents changed its name to Aaron’s. Loudermilk retired from his chairman post in September 2012. When that announcement was made the month before, he 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.”
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 Buckhead community. In 2008, he was awarded the Association of Progressive Rental Organization’s 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award and was named the Business to Business 2008 Philanthropist of the Year.
He 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 also served as chairman of the campaign supporting Andrew Young for mayor.
He has donated millions to local charities and causes, including the Atlanta Police Foundation, the University of North Carolina, and the Archbold Medical Center in Thomasville, Georgia.
In a statement, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said he was “deeply saddened” by Loudermilk’s passing.
“Throughout his life, he remained devoted to ensuring Atlanta is a prosperous, unified and forward-thinking community,’ Dickens said. “From his philanthropic efforts to his work integrating marginalized Atlanta businesses into the larger business community, his accomplishments were many and his actions matched his mantra of “work hard, dream big.” My thoughts are with his family and loved ones.”
In a message posted on LinkedIn, Aaron’s said “through his guidance, tenacity, and vision (Loudermilk0 pioneered the lease-to-own industry and set Aaron’s on a path of growth and success. He was a champion of giving back to the communities we serve, and he left an indelible mark on our company and the state of Georgia. We are grateful for his leadership and friendship over many decades.”