Jim Trueman once said, "When I was a kid, I drove too fast and enjoyed it," when asked about his passion for racing. A racecar driver, a sponsor of young athletes, a civic leader, a fitness enthusiast and a successful businessman, Trueman's life was marked by major victories on the racetrack and in the business field.
A Cleveland native, Trueman attended engineering school at Ohio State University before spending several years in the military. Upon his return to Ohio, he became involved in both the construction business and auto racing in the early 1970's, and he eventually formed his own company, James R. Trueman and Associates, to build multifamily dwellings, office buildings, and mobile-home communities. His company constructed 9000 apartment units in eight years and provided his promising start in the business world.
Trueman's greatest commercial success began in 1973 with the founding of the first Red Roof Inn in Grove City, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. Over the next 12 years, the chain would become the nation's largest privately owned and operated chain of budget motels. A testament to Trueman's dedication, all the employees who worked with him at the start of Red Roof Inns, Inc. were still a part of the organization at the time of his death. Trueman remained president of the corporation until his untimely death in 1986 after a two-year struggle with cancer.
Trueman's true passion in life was auto racing. A successful amateur racer, he won 125 races in his 23 years as a driver, winning Sports Car Club of America national championships in 1975 and 1978 as well as several divisional championships. Trueman also served on the board of directors of Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), a sanctioning group for Indianapolis car races. In recognition of his contributions to the sport, CART's rookie of the year award is given annually in Trueman's name. In 1981, Trueman purchased the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and founded his Truesports Indycar team. He invested heavily in both enterprises, gradually transforming the Mid-Ohio course into a major racing facility commonly regarded as one of the best on the country and creating a racing team that would later win the Indy 500.
Trueman's greatest victory came in 1986 just 11 days before his death. With his protege Bobby Rahal behind the wheel, Trueman's Budweiser/TrueSports racing team took top honors at the Indianapolis 500. Knowing that Trueman was severely ill, Rahal, struggling to control his voice, dedicated the victory to his patron.
After his death, Trueman's wife Barbara and his daughter Michelle continued to manage the Truesports organization. He was survived by two other children, his son Colin and his daughter Megan.
A lifelong fitness enthusiast and sponsor of young athletes, Trueman donated the necessary funds for construction of the fitness center in Wheeling Jesuit's McDonough Center. The students and athletes of WJU continue to benefit from the contribution of this remarkable man.
Information compiled from:
Car & Driver Magazine, September 1986
The Columbus Dispatch, January 31, 1987
The Columbus Dispatch, June 13, 1986
Grand America Road Racing Website (www.grand-am.com)
Mid-Ohio Sport Car Course Website (www.midohio.com)
New York Times,
Red Roof Inns Website (www.redroof.com)