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Around the Corner: Lonnie Rushing

By Carole Kelly

Service is an appropriate word for longtime Clinton businessman Lonnie Rushing, along with the words of faith, family and fortitude.

Lonnie Rushing

Lonnie Rushing

Rushing began as a full-service Exxon service station owner in Clinton fifty years ago, eventually operating three stations. His business journey has included the service stations, a convenience store, a Cock of the Walk Express, and Baskin Robbins ice cream, all of which encompass years of varied experiences before he entered the real estate world twenty years ago.

Displayed in the Rushing home is the framed work and philosophy of daughter Alana Rushing Weston, who believed in serving as a light and uplifter for other people.

Displayed in the Rushing home is the framed work and philosophy of daughter Alana Rushing Weston, who believed in serving as a light and uplifter for other people.

Each business has carried with it a myriad of memories and anecdotes of people and special times for Rushing.

He began his years of business with the Clinton Exxon on Springridge and Highway 80, on June 1, 1973, in the almost forgotten full-service days that faded as self-service, self-checking, do-it-yourself times took over. He steadfastly stayed with full-service as long as he could, but the self-serve protocol became a corporate order.

The full-service time was often a one-man job, with long hours Monday through Saturday, closed on Sunday. He became one of the top one hundred Exxon dealers in the country. Often, high school students worked for him, including his sons. Some customers needing extra help often had their cars picked up and filled up, then returned home.

Rushing believed in charging appropriate amounts for parts and labor, declining rate book instructions that allowed for inflated charges for some tasks.

“Not the right thing to do,” he states, with no regrets. “If it only took me a few minutes to perform a repair or replacement, why should I charge for an hour or more?”

The service station years brought a number of different tasks, among them servicing Clinton Post Office Jeeps and participating in the State vehicle inspection program that eventually fell by the way side.

Rushing says his memories encompass long work days that offered the opportunity to put his beliefs into action, to be a good Samaritan to someone in need along the streets and highways.

A desperate, penniless mother trying to drive from Georgia to Dallas to join her family pulled into the station at College Exxon, which was located at today’s Walgreen’s site. Her car needed servicing in the worst kind of way, and she had sold her car jack and spare tire for food money. She left Clinton with threadbare tires replaced, a tank of gas and some money, as well as a heart full of gratefulness.

Promising to pay Rushing back, she was assured he did not expect that, did not want it, just “pass it along.” Reaching her destination and family, she was thankful; he received a Christmas card every year for years.

After thirty-three years in the service station world, the convenience store world beckoned, with a Cock of the Walk Express and a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop enhancing his experience. Long hours and hard work followed, with the convenience store formula for success prescribing the selling of beer, a compromise Rushing was not willing to make and that proved to be a deal-breaker as far as success was concerned.

Leasing the convenience store in 2004, he faced starting over. Memorable experiences include his recall of the long hours and back-breaking work that the fish-frying techniques entailed. Also, he remembers that the how-to for ice cream serving was taught at a four-week Baskin Robbins franchise training session in Burbank, California. Classes meant practice sessions of measuring and weighing ice cream to ensure correct serving amounts and proper temperatures.

“After we measured out the ice cream scoops for practice, we dumped the practice scoops, perfectly good ice cream, into huge trash tubs for disposal,” says Rushing. He said he instead decided to pass along his ice cream to nearby grateful takers in beautiful downtown Burbank, which led to sharing his ice cream with residents at a nearby retirement home.

Rushing transferred into a real estate career in 2003, and this year celebrates his twentieth year. He became a multi-million-dollar producer, working now with Century 21 Maselle and Associates. He admits to his fondness in real estate for selling and negotiating, not so much for showing houses.

A man of faith, Rushing recalls his experience of accepting salvation when he was eight, but he renewed the experience when he was twenty-six at a crusade on the old Mississippi College football field. The crusade represents to him his real experience as an adult, of accepting Jesus as his personal Savior.

Over the years, he has been active in several Baptist churches, with forty-seven years served at Morrison Heights Baptist Church. He has taught three generations in Sunday School at the church where he is also active as a deacon.

Carole Kelly Wanda and Lonnie Rushing display one of the shirts that continue to share their daughter Alana's motto, “Be the difference, be the light."

Wanda and Lonnie Rushing display one of the shirts that continue to share their daughter Alana’s motto, “Be the difference, be the light.”

A graduate of Forest Hill High School, Rushing says he remembers the traditional rivalry between his school and Clinton.

“We would fight hard in those games, bitter rivals, but, if something came up against either Clinton or Forest Hill, the rivals became allies and stood together.”

He played football, basketball and baseball and, for many years, played competitive softball as shortstop and pitcher.

“I said I’d play ‘til it quit being fun. It quit being fun at a game in Cincinnati, Ohio, and I said to Wanda, ‘We’re going home!’” He was 41. He then coached his sons in their baseball years.
Family is a daily celebration with the Rushings. Three older sisters include Gail; Lonnie’s twin sister, Connie, five minutes older than he; and Monette, remembered with love, who died in 2011.

Married to Wanda Herrington Rushing for fifty-three years, he speaks lovingly of their life, their children and grandchildren. Wanda’s mother Juanita (“Nita”) lives nearby.

The two raised three children, daughter Alana Rushing Weston and sons David Rushing of Raymond and Marcus Rushing of Edwards, both successful businessmen. They have seven grandchildren.

Faith was at the forefront for the family as they faced Alana’s four-year battle with breast cancer. Before her death in 2018, she displayed her and her family’s faith as she valiantly faced treatments and supported vital breast cancer research.

Her motto: “Be the difference, be the light.”

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