Bob McKamey, an automotive icon who would become one of the most prominent people in the history of East Tennessee, died at his home Tuesday afternoon at the age of 83.

He had been hospitalized until recently and said over the weekend he felt much improved.

He originally started as a "lot boy," washing cars for his dad but over the next 60 years he molded an empire.

After becoming the first Toyota dealer in Tennessee and in the Southeast, not only did he become one of the most respected and prestigious car dealers in the country, Bob spent as much time bringing the Toyota brand to the United states as he did setting sales records.

On two occasions McKamey headed the Toyota Dealer Council, lobbied successfully when the unions wanted to drive foreign cars out of the United States, and was an acknowledged insider to Toyota's management.

As of late he relished tell customers that there were more parts in a 2010 Camry than in any model of a Ford or Chevrolet they could name. In addition to owning Capital Toyota and Lexus of Chattanooga, he was a principal partner in a dozen dealerships in Kentucky and Indiana with his longtime partner Steve Gates.

McKamey, who was in his early 80s, was also known for his philanthropy — he was an early benefactor of McKamey Animal Center — and for his propensity to give people second chances.