William Pickard, famed Detroit entrepreneur, dead at 83

William Pickard, a Michigan entrepreneur whose career spanned decades and included management and founding ventures in the automobile industry, has died, his family announced Wednesday. He was 83 years old.

Pickard, who is known as one of the first Black men to own a McDonald's franchise, was born in Georgia in 1941 and grew up in Flint before starting the Global Auto Alliance in 1989.

At the time of his death, he was surrounded by family and loved ones at his home in West Palm Beach, Florida, his family said in a statement.

"He donated a lot of what he earned and what he had, and I think that's how you become even more wealthy – by giving. I believe that, and he showed that," said Wayne County Sheriff Raphael Washington, who met Pickard decades ago. "When you say the name Bill Pickard, you thought ‘ultimate businessman.’"

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - FEBRUARY 19: William F. Pickard speaks onstage during Morehouse College 34th Annual "A Candle In The Dark" Gala at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta on February 19, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

In addition to his work with GAA Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management, he was a co-managing partner of MGM Grand Detroit Casino and co-owned five Black-owned newspapers. 

Awarded the Lifetime Humanitarian title in 2019, Pickard earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan in 1965 and a doctorate from Ohio State University in 1971. Before that, he attended Western Michigan University and Flint Mott College.

"On behalf of our family, we extend our heartfelt gratitude for the love and support during this difficult time. Your kindness has provided immense comfort," the family said.