Ed Williamson’s business success and participation in numerous civic, educational, and charitable endeavors have been well-chronicled through the years.
Owner of one of the top Cadillac dealerships as well as one of the leading Buick-GMC stores in the country, Williamson is a leader in civic activities, including (but definitely not limited to) the Orange Bowl Committee and the University of Miami Board of Trustees.
He is an avid supporter of charities that include the United Way, Camillus House, Chapman Partnership, the Baptist Foundation, Cancer Relay for Life, Yes Institute, Dade Community Foundation, The Children’s Trust, among others.
Willamson has membership in so many professional, charitable and civic groups, it’s hard to keep up with them all. He also has received countless awards for philanthropic work. It is all well-documented.
Here is something that few people know about Williamson.
“I’m an aerospace engineer,” he said.
This came about because after finishing high school in Lake Wales, where his father, George Williamson, had owned a Cadillac-Oldsmobile dealership, he went to Auburn University. He chose engineering as a major because he didn’t like the language requirement that went with his preferred major — math — and when it came to choosing an engineering discipline, he picked aerospace.
With specialties in structures and computer programs, he went to work after graduation in 1967 writing computer programs for a company in nearby Columbus, GA, when his father asked him about coming to the car dealership he was opening in Miami across from Dadeland Mall.
“Dad called up and said, ‘If you want to ride this train, you’ve got 11 days to get to the station.’”
That “train” took him to the GM Institute in Flint, MI, and what was euphemistically called the General Motors dealers’ sons’ school.
“Today, it’s General Motors sons and daughters’ school, of course,” he said.
After completing the nine-week course Williamson joined his father in South Florida. The rest, as they say, is history.
He and his brother Tommy bought out their father in 1976. When developers offered to buy the dealership’s property in 1997, Tommy took the deal and retired, leaving Ed to take over the business. He moved it to its present location at the corner of S. Dixie Highway and 104th Street and in 2002 was joined by his son Trae, who now is the company president.
Over the past 14 years they have ridden out the storm that has seen car sales dip from around 17.4 million in 2000 to about 10.4 million during the recession of 2009 back to nearly 17.5 million in 2015. The adjusted sales rate for 2016, based on January’s numbers, projects to 17.55 million.
With an expanding product lineup (three new crossovers coming in the future in addition to a new full-size sedan, the CT6), Cadillac looks healthier than ever. A new crossover also is coming to Buick and a new convertible, the Cascada, already is here.
“So it’s been really great,” he said. “This business is my life and my identity, and also my wife’s. And Tommy really enjoyed other things better, so it was great for him.”