Funeral Arrangements, Public Tribute Set in Detroit for Dr. William ‘Bill’ Pickard

Dr. William “Bill” F. Pickard – entrepreneur, philanthropist, education advocate, business titan, mentor, and visionary – passed away peacefully at his West Palm Beach, Fla. home on Wednesday, June 12, 2024, at the age of 83. The visitation, funeral, and public tribute at the Charles H. Wright Museum have been scheduled for Dr. Pickard on June 28 and 29, 2024, in Detroit.

Born on January 28, 1941, Dr. Pickard told the 2017 Clark Atlanta University graduating class: “I’m from LaGrange, Georgia, a very small town. I have a simple belief about life. Anybody from anywhere can accomplish anything. But you must put the work in.”

His early life was steeped in the values of hard work and education. He caught his first glimpse of the automotive industry in the 1950s when his family migrated to Flint, Mich. – a pivotal move that set the stage for his future successes. Dr. Pickard ultimately obtained an associate’s degree from Mott Community College, a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Western Michigan University, followed by a master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in education from the Ohio State University. He also received honorary doctorates from Clark Atlanta University (CAU) and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU).

Former Detroit Mayor Dennis Wayne Archer stated: “I had the pleasure and honor to have a friendship with Bill Pickard that spanned over 63 years. From the time that I first met him, he was someone who loved and respected his family. He always had a concern and a desire to help others less fortunate.

“This is especially interesting since both Bill and I met and shared rooms in the only dorm on Western Michigan University’s campus that did not serve food. The nickname for our dorm was ‘Hungry Hall.’ We were very fortunate to have a community that encouraged us to do our best. And he did just that…. through his time taken with people who needed or sought out his advice, his generosity through philanthropy, his high regard for people and his love and respect for church. He will be missed but long remembered and well-respected for what he did for others.”

Dr. Pickard’s 50-year entrepreneurial career began in 1971 when he became one of the first Black franchise owners of a McDonald’s in Detroit. His automotive business started with the purchase of Regal Plastics in 1985. In 1989, he founded the Global Automotive Alliance (GAA) Manufacturing, a holding company that has generated more than $5 billion in sales. GAA became the first minority-owned group of plastic parts suppliers to service the top three U.S. automakers.

Dr. Pickard was Co-Managing Partner at MGM Grand Detroit Casino, and co-owner of four Black-owned newspapers, including the Michigan Chronicle, which evolved into Real Times Media. Black Enterprise honored Dr. Pickard as one of the 50 most Influential Black Entrepreneurs over the past 50 years. In February 2021, he was appointed by the Commonwealth of the Bahamas as the first-ever honorary consul for the State of Michigan.

“The world has lost a true visionary and trailblazer with the passing of Dr. William F. Pickard. He was not only my esteemed business partner and colleague, but a dear friend whose wisdom, guidance, and unwavering belief in me changed the course of my life,” said Hiram E. Jackson, Publisher of the Michigan Chronicle and CEO of Real Times Media.

“Dr. Pickard’s pioneering spirit, coupled with his brilliant mind and generous heart, left an indelible mark on the business world and inspired countless others to dream big. His legacy of entrepreneurship, philanthropy, and uplifting the Black community will forever be etched in history. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to have walked alongside this giant among men. While his physical presence may be gone, Dr. Pickard’s impact on me and so many others will reverberate for generations to come. Rest in eternal peace, my friend and mentor.”

Dr. Pickard served on numerous business and non-profit boards including Asset Acceptance Capital Corporation, Michigan National and LaSalle Banks, Business Leaders for Michigan, National Urban League, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce, National Park Foundation and was a lifetime member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

“While many mourn a humanitarian and an astute businessman, I am deeply saddened by the loss of my corporate father, a man who taught me about the 5 ships of business – mentorship, sponsorship, partnership, chairmanship and ownership,” said Sylvester L. Hester, President and CEO, LM Manufacturing.

“I started in 1986 as an intern, and with his guidance, I went on to become the chairman of his business and then owner of my own business. None of that would have been possible without Dr. William Pickard.”

Dr. Pickard’s commitment to philanthropy was equally remarkable. His vast and impactful contributions include more than $3 million in donations to his alma mater, Western Michigan University, which resulted in the construction of the Hall-Archer-Pickard East and West Living Center. The William F. Pickard Living Center is named in his honor at Grand Valley State University. The Pickard-Dortch Living Center at CAU is named in honor of Dr. Pickard and Thomas W. Dortch, Jr, his friend for over 40 years. He partnered with his friend of 50 years, His Excellency Governor General Cornelius A. Smith to launch the Smith-Pickard Friendship and Alliance Scholarship at FAMU.

Dr. Pickard supported education efforts at Wayne County Community College District, Fort Valley State University, Ohio State University, Spelman College, Morehouse College and other HBCUs. His philanthropy also extended to arts and culture at the National Museum of African American History and Culture; Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History; Motown Historical Museum; and Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

In 2001, Dr. Pickard was awarded “Michiganian of the Year” for his exemplary business success, civic leadership, and philanthropy. In 2019, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer awarded Dr. Pickard “The Michigan Lifetime Humanitarian Award.” Dr. Pickard leaves a blueprint for the next generation of entrepreneurs with his book, “Surviving the Shift – 7 Proven Millionaire Moves: Vision/Attitude, Opportunity, Relationships, Talent/Skillset, Financial, Failure and Faith- for Embracing Change and Building Wealth.”

Corporate attorney and long-time friend Alex Parrish remarked: “Dr. Pickard was a titan in business, but he was unique in that he carried his Social Work values forward throughout his career. For many of us, he was our best friend, advocate and supporter. He will be greatly missed.”

Funeral arrangements for Dr. William F. Pickard are as follows:

  • Visitation is scheduled for 12-5 p.m. Friday, June 28, at Swanson Funeral Home, 14751 W. McNichols in Detroit.
  • “An Evening of Special Tributes: Honoring Dr. William F. Pickard” will take place from 6-8 p.m. Friday, June 28, at the Charles H. Wright Museum, 315 W. Warren in Detroit, and is open to the public.
  • Funeral service is Saturday, June 29 at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, 18700 James Couzens Freeway in Detroit. Family hour is scheduled for 10 a.m. with the funeral starting at 11 a.m. An Omega Service from the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity will be held at 10:30 a.m. and an Omega Service from the Sigma Pi Phi fraternity will be held at 10:45 a.m.
  • The family invites others to honor Dr. Pickard’s legacy by contributing to a cause that was close to his heart: Amyloidosis Foundation; Charles H. Wright Museum; Motown Museum; and United Negro College Fund.
  • Media will be received at the public tribute on Friday evening, June 28. Jocelyn Coley and team will assist members of the media at the Charles H. Wright Museum starting at 5 p.m.

Per the family’s wishes, representatives from the media will not be allowed to report from within the funeral service. Photography (still or video) within the funeral service is prohibited, as is any use of electronic devices.

Interment is private and the family has requested no media coverage.

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