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‘You’ve never heard of a used car dealer that people loved that much’

Wilton Grooms wasn’t your typical used car dealer.
Grooms spent 36 years selling used cars in Screven County, frequently to people who couldn’t afford to buy a car elsewhere.
The owner of Screven Auto Sales on Highway 301 in Sylvania died Saturday at the age of 69.
The funeral home was packed. The procession to the cemetery was long.
“You’ve never heard of a used car dealer that people loved that much,” said Sheriff Mike Kile, who knew Grooms for decades. “I don’t know what folks will do without him.”
Grooms found a niche selling used cars and offering financing. Many of the cars Grooms sold were to people who couldn’t get credit elsewhere, said Donnie Lovett, who became Grooms’ partner in September. “He may tell you “I can’t do it,’ but he’d have a change of heart the next day. He had to give in. That’s the type of person he was.”
Kile said Grooms knew people needed transportation in this large, rural county and that many lacked money and good credit. “He kept people in jobs,” Kile said. “He took a chance on people that no one else would.”
Grooms found a way to be compassionate but still turn a profit. “It’s turned out to be a real good business,” Lovett said.
Grooms started the business in Newington and moved to Sylvania about seven years ago, Lovett said.
He was on the board of Planters Telephone Cooperative and was a past board member of the Screven County Airport Authority. The funeral was held Monday at the Thompson-Strickland-Waters Chapel, with burial at Middle Ground Baptist Church Cemetery.
Survivors include his wife, Deloris Sommers Grooms of Sylvania; daughter and son-in-law Stephanie G. and Lindy Sheppard Jr. of Sylvania; and grandchildren Hayley, Clayton, Whitney and Wyatt Sheppard, all of Sylvania.