Fri Mar 3, 2017, 10:02 PM

Spencer Hays, man of books, sports and high-end suits, dies

Last edited Thu Mar 9, 2017, 07:36 PM - Edit history (2)

Spencer Hays, a Nashville and New York businessman who built successful companies behind books, sports and high-end suits, died Tuesday. He was 80 years old.

A man known for his work ethic, business principles, generosity and encouragement of others, Hays took a lot of pride in simply being a salesman.

"His business card didn’t say 'executive chairman,'" said Henry Bedford, chairman and CEO of Southwestern/Great American, Inc., one of Hays' Nashville-based companies.

"It said, 'salesman' — in large print."

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Hays and speaking to him many times during my career with American Airlines. He was always pleasant and well dressed.

My most memorable encounter with Mr. Hays dealt with a some men flying in from South America. Apparently, they were here to complete some work for him. They experienced some unspecified difficulty with immigration officers in DFW. I don't know what the problem was, but he asked me what I could ascertain about their whereabouts when they didn't arrive on their scheduled flight. I don't think they were returned to Chile(?). I think they were being held pending some clarification of their immigration status. I found an immigration office telephone number for him to call and his associates were soon on their way. If I correctly recall I looked at their reservation the following day to see they were on the next flight to BNA after his telephone call.

I noticed his absence at the airport. I wasn't seeing him as often and more times than not he was in a wheelchair, but I always made a point to wave or say hi to him. I am sorry to see him go.

Rest well, Mr. Hays.

Mr. Hays liked pin striped suits. In my opinion, those suits were his calling card more than the piece of paper in his pocket. The photograph above was taken when he was awarded the Officier de l'Ordre de la Legion d'Honneur for the donation of some of his art collection to the Orsay Museum in Paris.

The interior of one room in his house. Mr. Hays appears to have been quite the Francophile.

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