LAWTON, Okla._After nearly a quarter-century, a longtime Lawton businessman who billed his car lot as the "center of the universe" will no longer be in the driver's seat.
In a ceremony Monday, Dan Mullins announced the sale of his business on Northwest 2nd Street and Gore Boulevard; signing it over to younger hands. He says the new owners, who currently own another Nissan dealership in Ada, are no strangers to the business, and says it was the perfect time for him to step aside.
Mullins has been a staple in the Lawton community and a major supporter of the economic growth in downtown Lawton, but one group that is most gracious for his contributions is the local chapter of Buffalo Soldiers. In 2008, Mullins spear-headed the Buffalo Plaza, which sits across the street from his business. There, a one-of a-kind statue of a Buffalo Soldier was erected.
"This is the only statue of its type in the state, and Lawton is fortunate enough to have one," said Wallace Moore, Buffalo Soldier historian.
A fortune Moore says would not have been possible without the support of Mullins. The original Buffalo Soldiers were all first-generation salves and are responsible for building Fort Sill, making them a rich part of Lawton's history.
"It's hard for a lot of people, young people especially, to visualize exactly what they were and who they were. And with the statue, when you drive by, you get a glimpse, you get a picture of that," Moore said.
Mullins says he was inspired by the work of the Buffalo Soldiers.
"So many wonderful things in their day with sub-standard conditions, and rudimentary equipment, and I just respect the history of the Buffalo Soldier, so I decided I'd do something about it," Mullins said.
Seven years ago, Mullins was named an honorary Buffalo Soldier, joining an elite group which includes the likes of former Secretary of State General Colin Powell.
"We thank him for all the work he's done and the helping with keeping the history alive," Moore said.
Mullins has also been a major supporter of the economic growth in downtown Lawton.
"If you don't have a downtown, you don't have a town," Mullins said.
Weathering years of revitalization and construction around his business.
"We tried to work with him the best we could to keep access of the public open to his facility," Moore said.
And understanding how important the growth of downtown is.
"Something that we can point to with pride. It's transforming really from a blighted area to a nice environment for retail and residence," Mullins said.
Mayor Fred Fitch has known Mullins for nearly 30 years, and says he has been crucial to expanding the tax base in Lawton-Fort Sill.
"He's been a tremendous employer for many, many employees over the years, provided a very good, secure job for them," Mayor Fitch said.
Mayor Fitch also says he has no doubt that Mullins will continue to support the Lawton Fort-Sill community.
"He's one that doesn't go for a lot of recognition. He's kind of a quiet, behind-the-scenes giver," Mayor Fitch said.
Mayor Fitch also said Mullins has been supportive of the military and a great contributor to Cameron University, the Lawton Community Theatre and Arts for All. Mullins says he will still be a part of those organizations and plans on getting involved in a few others.