2004 Trailblazer Award Recipient: John L. Nau, III

2004: John L. Nau, III, has served as president and CEO of Silver Eagle Distributors, L.P., the nation’s largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products, since 1990. With more than 700 employees and offices in the greater Houston area, Silver Eagle Distributors is the number one beer distributor in the region.    

Nau is a self-made American success story. He got his start in the beverage industry in the 1970s after being discharged from the U.S. Marines. He got a job with Coca-Cola in Atlanta as a marketing trainee, moving around the country. Working for independent bottlers, he developed an instinct for turning sales around.

While running the Coke bottler in St. Louis, he got his break in beer. Nau considers that he’s built a career out of being lucky. Anheuser-Busch was breaking up National Brands, and the distributorship in Homestead, Florida became available. With sweat equity, he and three partners acquired the company. “I remember the first month there, we sold 88,000 cases.” Today, Silver Eagle sells about 250,000 cases ... a day. In 1987, Nau and his partners sold their Florida distributorship and purchased 49% of Southwest Distribution in Houston. Two years later, they purchased the rest of the company, renaming it Silver Eagle Distributors. When they purchased the company, it had a 24% market share. Today, Silver Eagle enjoys over 65% share.

Nau has a long history of philanthropic, community, and civic involvement in Houston and the nation. He has been recognized for his leadership and advocacy of historic preservation and land conservation. Nau has served on the boards of the Greater Houston Partnership, Good Samaritan Foundation, The Greater Houston Preservation Alliance, and the National Park Foundation. He has served as chairman of the Texas Historical Commission since 1995, appointed by the Governor of Texas. He is founder and President of The Nau Foundation.

He earned a B.A. degree in history from the University of Virginia, where he serves on the Board of Visitors, a position appointed by the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Nau’s lifelong interest and study of American history provided him with the knowledge and background to serve as chairman of the national Advisory Council on Historic Preservation since 2001, appointed to that position by President George W. Bush. As chairman of this sector of the U.S. Department of Interior, Nau headed efforts to create a White House initiative, Preserve America, which included various components such as Community Designations, Presidential Awards and Grant programs.