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No. 8: ‘I’ve given it away’ – philanthropist Bobby Allison dies

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One of the most prolific philanthropists in the region whose naming-level donations have made headlines over the years died Sept. 8. Bobby Allison was 74.

Allison, who named projects after himself and his mother, Betty Allison, committed millions of dollars’ worth of gifts to projects that support education, children and young adults, among other causes.

Tom Carter, co-owner of Springfield animal feed distributor Custom Protein Corp., where Allison worked for decades as vice president of sales, said he died of natural causes.

“It’s going to be a great loss to his friends and our company and the city,” Carter said. “He was just a very generous person.”

In 2021, Allison pledged over $3 million for naming rights at the Betty & Bobby Allison Sports Town, which opened Nov. 18.

Other naming-level donations from Allison include the Springfield Dream Center, several projects at Missouri State University, Mercy Hospital Springfield, the Springfield-Greene County Park Board and Twin Oaks Country Club.

In a news release, MSU officials issued condolences for Allison, who was selected for the school’s annual Bronze Bear Award in 2016.

“You can’t imagine a more humble or private person than Bobby Allison,” said Brent Dunn, executive director of the MSU Foundation, in the release. “He wanted to enrich all students’ lives – from toddlers through college. He cared about the student experience, which motivated him to give to athletics, recreation and other areas of the university.”

Allison’s name additionally adorns the headquarters of Springfield nonprofit Harmony House.

“Bobby was instrumental in Harmony House being able to move into our current facility about six years ago,” then Executive Director Lisa Farmer said in a statement. “He provided the lead gift, and he did it because of his love for children.”

Allison was known to be reserved and to act behind the scenes. He rarely spoke to the media, though when Springfield Business Journal interviewed him in 2014, Allison spoke of his late mother and the area youth he supports.

“If it wasn’t for the thrill I get from seeing my name and hers together, my name wouldn’t be on anything,” he said. “I haven’t accumulated it, as you’ve noticed. I’ve given it away. I’ve had some luck with some other projects besides Custom Protein.

“I’ve been involved in a little real estate, a little stock, this and that.”

Allison’s philanthropy toward local sports and recreation was recognized in 2021 by the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame with his induction as a Sports Philanthropist and Humanitarian.

“Bobby is like that high school football player who would run through a brick wall for the team, only he would do it for Springfield and the entire Ozarks,” said Jerald Andrews, then president and executive director of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, at the time in a news release.

“His story is what we all should celebrate: A successful businessman who gives back to the community over and over again.”

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