Born in rural Nebraska, Lee Sapp worked as a farmer as a teenager during the Great Depression. Soon after graduating from Pawnee City High School in 1946, Lee joined the Navy and became a corpsman, serving not only in the Navy but also with the Marines in Korea.
In 1960, Lee and his brothers, Ray, Dean, and Bill, joined forces to form their own company, the Sapp Brothers, and opened a Ford dealership in Ashland, Nebraska. Although Ford headquarters would assure them they were too young, too underfunded and too inexperienced to succeed, the Sapp Brothers quickly proved them wrong and began setting sales records, individually and as a dealership. Soon after opening the dealership in Ashland, they would open another in Blair Nebraska.
In 1962, Lee returned to Omaha to help run the GMC truck dealership with his brother Bill. The Sapp Brothers would become known not only for their dealerships in Ashland, Blair, and Omaha but also for their growing number of truck stops—sixteen at last count—and their petroleum company.
In 1977, Lee, himself, opened Sapp City Bank in Ashland, Nebraska, and got into the leasing and insurance business, as well.
His brothers called him the best salesman in the family, and Lee has the awards to show it, but you’d never hear about them from him. Throughout his years of success, Lee has kept quiet about many of his achievements and philanthropic activities. With no brag or fanfare, he has put more than eighty deserving but disadvantaged students through college. He has helped build a gym for underprivileged boys. Of all the buildings he has donated, his favorite is The Hurless and Emily Sapp Community Center in Filley, Nebraska, dedicated to his parents.
Lee’s benevolence has reached across the community, supporting Mahoney State Park, the Henry Doorly Zoo, and the SAC Museum, just to name a few recipients of his generosity. An enthusiastic Nebraska sports fan, Lee has contributed significantly to both the UNL and UNO athletic programs.
The way he sees it, giving back to the people of Nebraska is the right thing to do. He says they have supported the Sapp Brothers in all their ventures and giving back is part of the partnership with their customers.
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