Detroit Entrepreneur William Pickard, One of McDonald's First Black Franchise Owners, Dies at 83

June 12, 2024, 9:11 PM by  Allan Lengel

William Pickard (family photo)

William Pickard, a Detroit entrepreneur, philanthropist, education advocate and mentor, who helped pave the way for African Americans in business, died Wednesday at his home in West Palm Beach, Fla. surrounded by family and loved ones, the family said in a statement. He was 83.

He initially made his mark in 1971 when he became one of the first  Black franchise owners of a McDonald’s retaurant, which later grew into dozens in Metro Detroit. He also went on to be part of a number of other businesses. He was also an investor in MGM Grand Detroit. 

"He was a big supporter of Detroit," said political commentator Adolph Mongo, host of the podcast "Detroit in Black and White. "He broke barriers for African Americans in business and the auto industry." 

According to a biography on the website, "The History Makers," Pickard was born in 1941 in La Grange, Georgia to William Pickard and Victoria Woodward.

In 1962, he earned an Associate's Degree at Flint Mott College, and two years later graduated from Western Michigan University with a B.S. degree in sociology. In 1965, he earned a Master's Degree from the University of Michigan in social work. In 1971, he earned a Ph.D. degree from Ohio State University.

That same year, he got his first McDonald's franchise.

His business accomplishments continued to stack up, according to his bio.

A Republican, Pickard in 1982 was appointed as the first chairman of the African Development Foundation by President Ronald Reagan. In 1984, he purchased Regal Plastics Company, which specialized in producing plastic moldings used in automobile parts.

In 1987, Bearwood Management Company, Inc. was founded and Pickard became its president. In 1998, Pickard founded both Grupo Antolin Primera Automotive Systems and ARD Logistics. The following year, he helped found Vitec LLC, which provides logistic services for municipal fleets.

In 1999, he founded Global Automotive Alliance, a holding company to several automotive parts manufacturers. In 2003, he became part of a group that funded Real Times Media, which purchased the Michigan Chronicle and other African American newspapers. In 2004, Pickard became the director of Asset Acceptance Capitol Corporation.

Pickard also had a number of prestigious appointments besides the one from President Reagan in 1982.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush appointed him to the National Advisory Committee on Trade Policy, and the following year he was he named to the Federal Home Loan Bank Board of the Indianapolis Bank. In 2016, Gov. Rick Snyder appointed him to the Western Michigan Board of Trustees.

As if that weren't enough, he found time to author "Millionaire Moves: Seven Proven Principles of Entrepreneurship."

The funeral details are pending.

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