Renowned Detroit entrepreneur and philanthropist William Pickard dies at 83

BY Preta Peace Namasaba June 14, 2024 5:18 PM EDT
William F. Pickard. Photo credit: NBMBAA

Detroit entrepreneur and philanthropist William Pickard, founder and executive chairman of Global Automotive Alliance died at age 83. His extensive career spanned several industries, ranging from fast food and automotive to media and philanthropy. As previously reported by BlackStars News, Pickard was one of the first African Americans to own a McDonald’s franchise.

“It is with immense sorrow that we share the news that our beloved William “Bill” F. Pickard, PhD – entrepreneur, philanthropist, education advocate, business titan, mentor, and visionary – passed away peacefully Wednesday, June 12, 2024, at his West Palm Beach, Fla. home, surrounded by family and loved ones. He was 83. 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,” Pickard’s family said in a statement.

Pickard founded the Global Automotive Alliance in 1989, which has since generated more than $5 billion in sales. The company has eight plants in the U.S. and Canada and serves prominent corporations such as Ford, General Motors, Stellantis, Starbucks, Home Depot, the U.S. Marine Corporation, and the city of Detroit. Pickard was also a co-managing partner of MGM Grand Detroit Casino and CEO, of Bearwood Management Company. He was the co-owner of five Black-owned newspapers, including The Michigan Chronicle.

In 2004, Pickard became the director of Asset Acceptance Capital Corporation. His business endeavors and collection of acquisitions earned him a reputation as a representative for Black entrepreneurs. He was appointed as the first Chairman of the African Development Foundation which was established under President Ronald Reagan. Pickard was later appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Trade Policy by President George H.W. Bush.

A philanthropist, Pickard donated over $1 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, and over $3 million to Western Michigan University, his alma mater. He also made significant contributions to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, the Motown Historical Museum, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the Wayne County Community College District. He was awarded Michiganian of the Year for his business success, civic leadership, and philanthropy in 2001.o

In 2019, Pickard was honored with the Michiganian of the Year award and the Michigan Lifetime Humanitarian Award. His enduring legacy has left a profound impact on Black entrepreneurship and philanthropy.

“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. When you say the name Bill Pickard, you thought ‘ultimate businessman.’,” Raphael Washington, Wayne County Sheriff said about Pickard’s impact.