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Looking back on the life of philanthropist and business giant Dr. William Pickard

Posted at 6:11 PM, Jun 27, 2024

DETROIT (WXYZ) — We want to look back on the life of William Pickard, a giant in business and philanthropy and a strong believer in education. He passed away on June 12th.

We sat down with a friend and business partner to learn more about a man who meant so much to Detroit, the state, and one whose legacy will be remembered.

To watch William Pickard, interact with young people, you'd never know this giant in business and multi-millionaire came from such humble beginnings. He mentored Sylvester Hester from his senior year in college.

“I came in and here was this young charismatic leader and I wasn't the only one there were several young engineers both male and female that he had hired,” said Hester.

Hester went from intern to leading several of Pickard's businesses to now ownership of his own company, LM Manufacturing, and Pickard's legacy of teaching the importance of generational wealth will continue.

“We had to lay out our credit reports down and then we had to go through steps of improving our credit reports and then we'd have book reading assignments,” said Hester. “He even helped us get out of debt; he was so committed to the cause of making sure the knowledge was passed down from generations.”

Now 37 years later Hester carries a heavy heart. Pickard passed away at 83 years old on June 12th in Florida, surrounded by family.

Known across America, he would receive two appointments from Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He held many titles: founder of GAA Manufacturing, partner of MGM Grand Detroit Casino, CEO of a McDonald's management chain, and co-owner of five newspapers. Yet he always remained humble.

“He was just as comfortable in the presence of presidents as he would be down on the neighborhood,” said Hester.

His motto: ‘You cannot be what you cannot see’. So in 2003, he helped fund Real Times Media, LLC. He founded the Michigan Chronicle and purchased other African-American-owned newspapers.

Born in Georgia, Pickard would go from community college to earn his PhD and as he got older, he would travel to inspire college students.

“He would go to HBCUs and other colleges and he would talk about entrepreneurship,” said Hester.

In 2017, he published his book, Millionaire Moves: Seven Proven Principles of Entrepreneurship. He had the golden touch.

“I said well Bill, exactly how many millionaires have you helped create and I remember like it was yesterday, he stopped, he paused, he looks up, and says 46,” said Hester.

He was also a professor at several universities. Western Michigan University named a residence hall in his honor, along with Ronald Hall and Former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer.

He was a true giver from the heart, of his time and his wealth.

“He was probably the most generous person that I have ever met in my life,” said Hester.

“His core belief? You're blessed to be a blessing,” said Hester.

On June 28, 2024, Pickard's life will be on full display at the Charles H Wright Museum of African American History followed by a private funeral on Saturday.