Jim Click: A Legacy of Giving

June 10, 2024
Image of Jim Click

Click's gift to adaptive athletics will help the program expand recruiting efforts and support for atheletes.

Photo: Chris Richards

The walls of Jim Click’s office are an impressive visual record of people who have graced his life over the decades, yet they offer only a small hint at a life rich with personal connections and memorable experiences. Photographs of Click smiling next to former presidents hang alongside photos of employees from the early days of his automotive dealership, team photos from his college football days, and of course the smiling faces of his children and granddaughter. 

As Click looks over the photos, he remembers each person with fondness and surprising detail, and one gets the sense that he truly cares about all people, whether famous politicians or car washers.

Click is well known in Tucson for his car dealerships and his generosity as a philanthropist. His giving spans a gamut of causes, from sponsoring Little League teams to supporting the symphony or funding education for low-income high schoolers. In fact, Click helps fundraise for hundreds of nonprofits every year through the Millions for Tucson Raffle, which raised $1.87 million for over 300 charities this past year. 

Jim Click and Pete Hughes, Director of Adaptive Athletics

Jim Click and Pete Hughes, Director of Adaptive Athletics

Photo: Chris Richards

Click credits his father and his great-uncle, Holmes Paul Tuttle, for teaching him the value of giving back. From an early age, he remembers his father “always taking care of people.” And when Jim moved to Tucson in 1971 with his wife, Vicki, to go into business with his uncle at Pueblo Ford, Tuttle told him, “Tucson is a great city, and if you take out of the community, you need to give back.” 

“I took him a little too seriously,” Click laughs. “He said, ‘You better slow down and make a little more before you give it away.’”

Some of those early gifts went to the University of Arizona, benefiting five law students with $500 scholarships. And he provided in-kind donations of cars for coaches in the athletics department. As his connections grew, so did his giving, spanning colleges and causes across campus. In 2000, Click made a $1.75 million gift to build the Jim Click Hall of Champions, a museum that chronicles the history of athletics at the university, in an addition to the north side of McKale Memorial Center. 

But over time, one cause in particular has become near and dear to the couple’s heart: adaptive athletics. 

The Clicks are longtime supporters of organizations that provide services to people with disabilities. As early as the 1970s, he worked with the Beacon Group, a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities attain meaningful employment. He points to a picture on his wall of a young woman — one of the first two Beacon employees he hired. “I remember it like it was yesterday,” he says, laughing in disbelief. 

In 1984, Click says, one of his body shop technicians, Richard Nolen, injured his neck in a touch football game and became paralyzed. The Clicks sent Nolen to a world-renowned rehab institute in Denver, and upon his return to Tucson, Nolen joined the wheelchair track and road racing team in the university’s adaptive athletics program. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1990. 

When Nolen interviewed to return for a job at Jim Click Automotive in 1991, he says, “I told Jim, ‘I wanted to be treated just like everybody else, not a handout.’” Nolen says he started at the bottom, logging inventory, and worked his way up to his current role as a financial controller. 

Nolen’s recovery and perseverance were inspirational to Click. “He completed a marathon before I even did,” says Click, himself a lifelong athlete. It was Nolen who introduced Click to David HerrCardillo, the creator and then-director of the university’s adaptive athletics program. Together, they sparked in Click a passion for supporting adaptive athletes. 

“In those days, it was shoestring,” Click says, thinking back to the program’s early years. He began to sponsor and participate in events that grew into Jim Click’s Run N’ Roll, the largest yearly fundraiser for the program. 

Thinking back to the late 1970s, Click says, “I saw Roy Drachman give a million dollars to the UA Cancer Center at a football halftime show. When I saw him that Christmas the same year, I said, ‘Roy, someday I want to be able to do that.’” 

“Twenty years later, in 1998, when we sold the bank, I was out at the Tucson Country Club and ran into Roy, and he said, ‘You know, Jim, maybe it’s time for you to give that million dollars.’” 

Click (center) gathers with adaptive student-athletes, coaches, alumni, support staff and parents to celebrate Clicks' $6.5 million gift to the program.

Click (center) gathers with adaptive student-athletes, coaches, alumni, support staff and parents to celebrate Clicks' $6.5 million gift to the program.

Photo: Chris Richards

After thinking it over with Vicki, the Clicks decided to give their first-ever million-dollar gift to establish an endowment in adaptive athletics. 

Since then, their support has only grown. In 2023, the Clicks committed to $6.5 million in outright and estate gifts to adaptive athletics. The funding will allow the program, the largest in the country and the third-largest producer of Paralympians, to expand its recruiting efforts and to support its elite athletes.

 “I think we can be the best program in the United States,” Click says. “Adaptive athletes may only make up a small percentage of the overall student body, but their presence on campus is valuable, and they bring unique perspectives to the classroom that can impact others.” 

He hopes his gift will make a statement in the community about the importance of people with disabilities, saying, “I think it’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made, without a doubt.” 

Click notes that it’s not just the adaptive program that makes UArizona great for people with physical disabilities, but the accessibility of the campus in general — thanks in large part to the Disability Resource Center. 

Click describes himself as “lucky” that leaders at the university reached out to him in those early years and asked him to give to scholarships, athletics and causes across campus. “And I was lucky when Roy Drachman said, ‘It’s about time you gave that gift,’” he adds. 

Thinking back, he also recalls a meeting with Sen. Dennis DeConcini when the Clicks had just moved to Tucson. DeConcini sat him down and explained that Tucson was not a wealthy community and some people had great need. 

“He said, ‘Jim, look what the DeConcini family has accomplished in this community. I’ve found the more I’ve given to this community, the more the community has given back to me,’” Click says. “And he was right. Whatever you give, you’re going to get it back tenfold.” 

“The more I’ve given, the more this community has given back to me,” Click reiterates, with emphasis.

 This April, Click celebrates his 80th birthday. When ask about his legacy, he says, “I want to be known as a good guy who cared about the community.”