He hopped trains and did odd jobs during the Great Depression, but by the time of his death, they called N.C. "Mac" McMurtrey the king of auto parts, an apt description for a guy who grew his business from a single store to 60 throughout California.
But McMurtrey, who died Dec. 9 at age 97, will be remembered not just for the empire he created but the legacy of giving he leaves — so much giving, in fact, that the city named the McMurtrey Aquatic Center in his honor.
"I was mostly just good at joining," he once told his granddaughter Katy Raytis, who wrote a moving tribute to McMurtrey in a recent issue of Bakersfield Life magazine.
"I don't think I ever did much."
Born in Stella, Mo., McMurtrey followed a brother to Bakersfield. His first job was at Pioneer Mercantile, where he worked for 18 years.
After serving in the Navy during World War II, he returned to Bakersfield and in 1956 opened Southern Auto Supply, which grew into 60 stores and seven warehouses throughout the state when he sold the company that would later become part of CarQuest.