Dateline: September 23, 2004

Chamberlain

Fred Ellis “Trey” Chamberlain III, a lifelong citizen of Clarendon and former business and civic leader, died last Friday, September 17. He was 52.

Funeral services were held Monday in the First Presbyterian Church with Rev. Robin Gantz, Pastor, and Rev. Larry Black of Abilene, officiating.  Burial followed in Citizens Cemetery.

“Trey lived life to the limits and sometimes pushed the limits,” Gantz said at the service. She also recalled him as a man who “was a Presbyterian through and through.”

Chamberlain was born October 17, 1951, in Lubbock.  He married Diane Haggis on April 26, 1975, in Norwood, Ohio.  He attended Clarendon Public Schools and graduated high school from Kemper Military Academy in Booneville, Missouri, in 1970. 

He graduated from General Motors Institute in Flint, Michigan, with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Management and a minor in mechanical engineering. Chamberlain worked for GM and Buick and joined the engineering team for Opal cars. During his time with GM, he was part of the team that put the first electronic fuel injection system on a car made in America.

He returned to Clarendon in 1975 to involve himself in Chamberlain Motor Company, a family owned car dealership established by his father in 1956. He took on the role of general manager because of his father’s poor health. The family later embarked on an enlargement of the business; and, at one point, Chamberlain’s had the largest showroom in Texas.

The dealership carried Cadillac, Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile, and GMC lines and later added Chevrolet. 

In 1980, Chamberlain became dealer principal of the business upon his father’s death. He sold the family business in 2002 to Mark Suna and reflected on his career in an August 8, 2002, interview with The Clarendon Enterprise.

“I started work hoeing weeds in the fifth grade,” Chamberlain said then. “I got an inside job in the parts department when I got my driver’s license at 14.”

Trey said the early- and mid-1980s were good years for business with a resurgence in the early-1990s. The business and the family suffered a blow in 2001 with the death of Jean Chamberlain, but it was Trey’s coming down with pancreatitis in 1996 that really brought on the need to sell, he said.

“I appreciate all the friends I’ve made and the people I could help,” Chamberlain said in 2001. “Of course, you want to make money; that’s why you’re in business. But it’s when you can help people that makes it really worthwhile. I appreciate all the repeat customers and helping them. I will miss that part of the job.”

During his business career, Chamberlain was a Texas Automobile Dealer Association board member, a Caballero Life Insurance Group member, a National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) member, and treasurer of the Silver Star Oldsmobile Advertising Group from 1982-1998. He twice received the Cadillac Master Dealer Award and got the Best in Class Award from Buick and the Top Customer Satisfaction Award.

He was past president of Clarendon Chamber of Commerce, past president of Clarendon Economic Development Corporation, and a member of the Clarendon Lions Club. He was an elder and a member of the First Presbyterian Church. 

He was preceded in death by his father, Fred E. Chamberlain, Jr., in 1980 and his mother, Jean Colvin Chamberlain, in 2001.

Survivors include his wife, Diane Chamberlain of Clarendon; one daughter, Catherine Chamberlain of Dallas; one son, Chris Chamberlain of Clarendon; one sister, Carol Thompson and husband, Gene, of Pampa.

The family requests that memorials be to the First Presbyterian Church in Clarendon or the Presbyterian Children’s Home in Amarillo.

Copyright © 2004, The Clarendon Enterprise. All Rights Reserved.