Atlanta entrepreneur honors nation’s very first Black automaker

ATLANTA — Derek Bailey has always admired trailblazers. Bailey builds cars. Electric cars. But he has always admired this country’s very first — and until himself only — African American automaker.

“He was actually born before the Emancipation Proclamation. He built a car company in that period and time,” Bailey said. “Black men have been doing great things throughout history.”

C.R. Patterson was born into slavery. But the company he started built automobiles before Henry Ford did.

More than 100 years later in his midtown Atlanta showroom, Bailey has gasoline-powered cars he converted to electric vehicles.


“Our retrofit is to show that we can use our technology to bring everyone into the EV revolution by allowing you to bring an old car in on Monday, and next Monday pick up an electric car,” Bailey said.

He’s also preparing to launch production of a new EV that will be equipped with a special generator that will charge the car’s battery and eliminate the need for a charging station.

This week, Derek Automotive will honor C.R. Patterson to mark Juneteenth. If only C.R. could ride in one of Bailey’s new cars.

“I think he’d be proud. He’d probably go over my car and help me make improvements. The man was a master craftsman! I’m not. I’m relying on good Chinese partners to help me build this car. He’d probably be proud as he criticized my car,” Bailey said.