Our Story
Our Legacy for the Future:
Hyde Family Foundation

If it were easy, it would have been done a long time ago.

– Pitt Hyde

You can give money away and feel good, but you move the needle by thinking in a more disciplined way about how to make an impact.

– Barbara Hyde

In 1961, J.R. Hyde Sr. established his family foundation bearing his name. He appointed his children and grandson to the board, and until his passing in 1972, he remained dedicated to a tradition of philanthropy. Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, J.R. (Pitt) Hyde III, a business executive and entrepreneur, embraced philanthropy as a core value. In 1979, he founded AutoZone, one of the largest aftermarket automotive parts and accessories retailers in the U.S. In 1992, he married Barbara Rosser Hyde, who directed the Arts & Sciences Foundation at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Together, Pitt and Barbara initiated a family foundation with a mission to bring entrepreneurial philanthropy to Memphis, emphasizing innovation, accountability, and transformative results.

To achieve these goals, the Foundation aspired to act locally to set national “best practice” standards. They believed in the importance of sweat equity alongside financial capital and the irreplaceable value of exceptional leaders. Consequently, the Foundation gained national recognition for funding bold initiatives for positive change and actively participating in the field to drive that change. It became a subject of interest in national journals and publications, influencing the strategies of other U.S. foundations.

The term “foundation” is fitting for this philanthropic endeavor because it signifies the groundwork on which something is constructed. The J.R. Hyde III Family Foundation aimed to build a stronger Memphis with ambitious goals and the collective capacity to achieve them. Its work rested on the pillars of stewardship, entrepreneurship, citizenship, and leadership, principles that not only guided the Foundation’s actions but also characterized its partners.

Just as life experiences shape families, they influenced the Foundation’s philosophy and approach. Given its founder’s strong business background and entrepreneurial achievements, the Foundation struck a balance between taking risks, seeking substantial returns, encouraging innovative ideas, and measuring successes.

While Pitt and Barbara had a clear vision for the Foundation, its evolution emphasized thorough research, analysis, and evaluation. It invested in practical yet transformative ideas aimed at providing every child with a quality education, leveraging unique assets for competitive advantage, and enhancing the quality of life in urban neighborhoods. Grants were awarded based on their impact and results, but investments were also made in leaders and change agents capable of making profound differences, particularly at the grassroots level. This approach made it a distinctive, asset-focused, people-driven, and Memphis-centric philanthropy.

The family’s mantra, “to whom much is given, much is required,” has been passed down through generations, making direct involvement in philanthropy an integral part of the family’s identity. Equally ingrained in the Foundation’s DNA is its unwavering commitment to Memphis—a city that has given the family so much and provides a testing ground for philanthropic approaches with national relevance and implications.