Pickard, William F. 1941–

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William F. Pickard

Chairman and chief executive officer, Global Automotive Alliance

Nationality: American.

Born: January 28, 1941, in La Grange, Georgia.

Education: Flint Mott College, AS, 1962; Western Michigan University, BS, 1964; University of Michigan; MSW, 1965; Ohio State University, PhD, 1971.

Family: Son of William H. Pickard and Victoria Woodyard; married Vivian (maiden name unknown); children: one.

Career: Cleveland Urban League, 19651967, director of education; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 19671969, executive director; Wayne State University, 19711974, professor; McDonald's, 1971, franchise owner; Cleveland State University, 19711972, associate director of urban studies; Wayne State University, 19721974, associate professor; Global Automotive Alliance, 1985, chairman and chief executive officer.

Awards: National Institute of Mental Health Fellowship, 1964; Haynes Fellowship, National Urban League, 1965; Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration, Cleary College, 1980.

Address: Global Automotive Alliance, 211 West Fort Street, Detroit, Michigan 48226.

William F. Pickard was the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Global Automotive Alliance, one of the country's leading minority-owned businesses. Under his leadership the business became the first minority-owned group of plastic-parts suppliers to service the top three U.S. automakers. On several occasions the company was on Black Enterprise 's list of the top 100 industrial/service companies. Pickard was honored numerous times for his business acumen, actions to assist African Americans and other minorities in the business world, and commitment to teaching and mentoring others.


Pickard caught his first glimpse of the automotive world in the 1950s when his parents moved the family from Florida to Flint, Michigan, a city built on the car industry. While his parents worked on the assembly line at General Motors, the young Pickard attended school, where he was treated as an outcast for being both new to the neighborhood and African American. He struggled in his schoolwork until an English teacher encouraged him to work to his fullest potential. Pickard considered this teacher his first mentor and the person who introduced him to the importance of helping others to achieve their best.

With his new ambition in place, Pickard pushed ahead to earn an associate's degree at Flint Mott College in 1962 and a bachelor's degree at Western Michigan University in 1964. He then earned a master's degree in social work at the University of Michigan.


Armed with his training, Pickard began his good works. He started his career in 1965 as the director of education at the Cleveland Urban League and then, in 1967, joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as executive director. In 1969 Pickard returned to school to earn a PhD in psychology at Ohio State University in Columbus. On completing his studies he worked in several professorial positions at various institutions in southeastern Michigan and northern Ohio. At the same time he started on a new path into the world of entrepreneurship, allowing his business and investment skills to emergeskills that would be tested through several ventures and eventually lead him to success.


Soon after a chance meeting with a McDonald's corporate executive, Pickard began his first business endeavor as the owner of several McDonald's franchises. He was also investing, not too successfully, in car dealerships around that time. Later, a lunch with Henry Ford II led him from dealerships to the automotive supply industry. Ford told him, "We need black suppliers," and Pickard took that to heart (Detroit News, May 21, 2002). Soon he began investing in minority firms that produced automotive parts. This move led to his creating the Global Automotive Alliance (Alliance), one of the country's leading minority-owned companies.

Pickard created the Alliance when he gained 51 percent ownership of six firms and combined them to form his own group of suppliers. In establishing this new business, he followed a trend in consolidation set by other major automotive suppliers that had formed joint ventures. "Joint ventures allow established businesses to provide mentoring for new minority companies, to assist in their development," said Pickard (Plastics Technology Online, July 1999). At the Alliance nearly 50 percent of the employees and more than 30 percent of management were minorities. The Alliance became the first minority-owned group of tier-one and tier-two suppliers of plastic parts to the top three U.S. automakers. By 2004 the firm employed 1,275 people and had sales of $235 million.


With the means to help others on a larger scale, Pickard created a companywide internship program to recruit the next generation of minority employees in plastics processing. In 1990 President George H. W. Bush appointed him to the Federal Home Loan Bank Board in Indiana. Shortly after, the president appointed him to the National Advisory Committee on Trade Policy Negotiations. In addition, he served on numerous boards, continued teaching, was an avid volunteer and donor to charities, and mentored many colleagues. In 2001 the Detroit News honored him as a Michiganian of the Year for his accomplishments as an entrepreneur, teacher, and mentor to future leaders.

See also entry on McDonald's Corporation in International Directory of Company Histories.

sources for further information

Carney, Susan, "Entrepreneur Extends a Helping Hand as a Mentor," Detroit News May 21, 2002.

Knights, Mikell, "Partnerships Open Doors in Detroit for Minority-Owned Plastics Group," Plastics Technology, July 1999.

Jeanette Bogren