Anyone involved in business or community development in Murfreesboro over the last roughly 40 years interacted with Mark Pirtle. He was a bundle of energy and ideas who always walked into a room with a smile on his face and kind words to those who interacted with him, be you the governor or simply a community member sitting on the board of one of the many organizations he helped. Pirtle died October 3, 2022 at the age of 70.
His efforts have affected so many in a positive way, even those who may have never even heard his name before, as he worked to make Murfreesboro and other parts of Middle Tennessee a great place to live and work.
Pirtle was a successful banker, car dealer, commercial real estate developer and philanthropist in Murfreesboro, helping to move the Gateway forward and donating the land for the building of a more professional Chamber of Commerce building, so the organization could move out of the old log cabin in Cannonsburgh where it had been housed for many years.
He was central to the development of the Gateway area by building the first Class-A Office space, the 92,000-square-foot StoneGate Corporate Center. Often referred to locally as the “Pirtle Building,” it inspired the creation of more white-collar jobs in the community, as well as offering a vision for the future usage of the land around the new Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital.
When Pirtle had a vision of something, he would pursue it relentlessly according to those who worked closest with him. In the late 1990s, he felt that Murfreesboro needed a better Chamber of Commerce building to be taken seriously by large companies looking to invest in the South, which would bring better jobs and economic growth. He even donated the land for the new building, which now houses the American Red Cross at 501 Memorial. That move did indeed bring a new era to economic and community development in Murfreesboro and Rutherford County, making it the thriving area it is today.
Born in McMinnville as one of five children to Joyce Pirtle of McMinnville and the late Jack Edwin Pirtle, he began working at the age of 16 at Commerce Union Bank and after graduating from Middle Tennessee State University, he moved to Chattanooga to join the Management Training Program for Hamilton National Bank. Due to his early exposure to banking, Pirtle moved through the ranks in the bank quickly. It was also here that he was first exposed to the automobile sales industry.
According to a 2019 interview with Pirtle in VIP Magazine, he “found his calling [in auto sales], where he could earn well, help others and grow…He returned to Murfreesboro, where he purchased the Oldsmobile-Cadillac dealership in 1985.” He had already been involved in some commercial real estate investment with friends, and soon had a “blended career,” with his fingers dipped into real estate, banking and automobile sales, according to WGNS radio.
In 1987, Pirtle married the love of his life, Anita Pirtle. They then began a partnership in philanthropy and community development that has touched many lives, including extensive investment into the Chamber of Commerce. Pirtle was at one time Chairman of the Board of Directors. For his efforts for the Chamber and in the community, he was named Business Person of the Year, and then as a Business Legend in the county. Currently, the economic development center carries his name.
The VIP article noted, “One of Mark’s favorite board services was being a charter ten-year member of the Boy’s and Girl’s Club. He believes the community was blessed when it received a grant from the Christy Houston Foundation to build the outstanding facility it operates today. As a result, thousands and thousands of children have been served.”
More recently, Pirtle has been involved with building a new Alive Hospice Residence. It will offer services to citizens from all walks of life with families living far from them.
Anita and Mark Pirtle made a home in Murfreesboro, living for 28 years on Thompson Lane, where they raised three children, and now have three grandsons. And even with his passing from cancer, his presence will continue to be felt by the many friends and associates he leaves behind, as well as through the many ways he worked to build a better community for everyone.