Mott was a pioneer of the auto industry. He was one of the founders of General Motors and owner of more than a half a million shares of GM stock, making him not only the corporation's largest single stockholder, but also one of the wealthiest men in the world.
But to the citizens of Flint, Michigan, Mott - who died at age 97 in 1973 - was more than an auto pioneer. He was their "first citizen" and a man who, as mayor of Flint for three terms beginning in 1912, initiated programs to tackle the problem of juvenile delinquency in the city of 160,000 and reduce the number of children being killed by newfangled horseless carriages on the streets of Flint, especially in the summer.
Mayor Mott's plan was to convert Flint's school buildings into recreational centers when not in use during the summer and evenings during the school year. It would, he said, keep children off the streets. Activities in the center would be led by trained volunteers and paid people and include art, music, sewing, knitting, dancing, dramatics, story-telling, singing, sports and stamp collecting.
His plan worked.
Juvenile delinquency was cut by 60 percent and while Mott was mayor, not a single child was killed in the streets.
He moved to Utica in 1900 to become superintendent of the Weston-Mott Company, on Lincoln Avenue, where his grandfather and several uncles manufactured wheels and rims for bicycles and carriages.
Mott realized that the automobile era was about to begin in earnest so he designed an axle for automobiles and began to manufacture them in Utica.
In 1901, he became first president of the Automobile Club of Utica and represented the club in 1902 when Utica and eight other clubs met in Chicago and formed the American Automobile Association (AAA).
In 1906, William Durant, president of Buick Motor Company, convinced Mott to move to Flint and begin making axles for Buick.
In 1908, Durant founded General Motors and in / 1912, purchased all Weston-Mott stock. Mott took GM stock - instead of cash - for his company. He added steadily to his GM holdings until it was reported he owned 523,087 shares.
Mott maintained an interest in Utica until he died. He was a member of several Masonic organizations, having become a Mason in 1904 in Utica in Faxton Lodge 697. In 1955, he was honored on his 5oth anniversary as a member of Utica's Ziyara Temple.
His interest in fighting juvenile delinquency in Flint resulted in his establishing the Mott Foundation for Youth with a $5.2 million gift. Once asked about what he was most proud of during his years as mayor of Flint, he replied, "The children of Flint don't play in the streets anymore."