Jack Richmond died Feb. 14. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

San Antonio businessman and philanthropist Jack Richmond, who supported a range of local nonprofits through his family foundation, has died. He was 91.

Richmond, who died Feb. 14, bought a Pizza Hut restaurant in San Antonio in 1968, the year the World’s Fair came to the city, and continued to expand and operate the chain of restaurants here for 52 years.

Success in business allowed him to contribute to charitable organizations throughout San Antonio, including Any Baby Can, Boysville, Battered Women’s Shelter, Children’s Bereavement Center, Christian Assistance Ministries, Habit for Humanity of San Antonio, Jewish Family Services, Mission Road Ministries, SAMMinistries, San Antonio Christian Dental Center, San Antonio Food Bank, St. Vincent de Paul, and more.

But it was disappointment that originally brought Richmond to San Antonio.

He was born in 1928 in Parsons, Kansas, and graduated from Washburn University in Topeka in 1950. He served in the Air Force during the Korean War, then went to work for Southwestern Bell Telephone company in Kansas.

Believing he was wrongfully passed over for a promotion at the phone company, Richmond left after nine years to pursue his entrepreneurial dreams, buying what was then a fairly new restaurant concept known as Pizza Hut in San Antonio.

“He wanted to be in charge of his future with his family,” said son Clay Richmond. “He had zero restaurant experience. He just wanted a building up and running and the rights to a territory and he would take it from there.”

The original restaurant is located at Oblate Drive and San Pedro Avenue and is the oldest continuously operating Pizza Hut in the country, Richmond’s son said.

In the early days, Richmond and his wife Laura ran the business from their home, with Laura handling the bookkeeping. Clay Richmond recalls his dad talking about how difficult hiring for the restaurant was in 1968 because most people wanted to work at HemisFair.

Jack and Laura Richmond at their first restaurant located at 6630 San Pedro Ave. in 1972. Credit: Courtesy / Richmond family

But he persevered, and the family now owns 34 area stores with two more set to open soon. Richmond’s three sons entered the business with each stepping into a leadership role that suited his interests.

In 2009, Richmond was inducted into the International Pizza Hut Franchise Holders Association’s Hall of Fame. “But there are people who have been with us for 40-plus years who were instrumental and highly valued and a big part of Jack’s success,” his son said.

It was Richmond’s generosity to local causes for which he may be most remembered. Attorney Henry B. Gonzalez III, who has been a friend of the family for over 30 years, called him “a beautiful human being” and cited the close relationships Richmond and his wife had developed with local charitable organizations over the years.

“Every adversity Jack had, he made something out of it,” Gonzalez said, from getting passed over for a promotion to losing his teenage son and, more recently, caring for his ailing wife.

Richmond’s son Wade died suddenly in 1984 after a grand mal seizure. He was 17. “It was particularly tough on my father when Wade passed,” Clay Richmond said. “He was a bright star for my father, and they had a lot of similarities.”

Richmond and other family members started the Wade Richmond Foundation in 1998. It was guided by one of Richmond’s favorite sayings: “We should love each other. That means, caring for your neighbors – where those in mourning are comforted, where the hungry are fed, where the poor hear good news.”

Clay Richmond said his father was always a very giving and generous person. “It was just part of his DNA,” he said. “[But] this sort of focused it. They created two scholarships in my brother’s name pretty quick.”

With the Richmond Family Foundation, which was founded earlier, the Wade Richmond Foundation has given more than 20 matching grants to local charities, providing more than $4 million in financial support. Matching challenges brought the total contributed to over $10 million.

In January 2019, the Richmond family joined classmates and friends at LEE High School when North East ISD rededicated a memorial plaque in Wade’s memory in a new location.

Richmond is survived by his wife and sons John, Steve, and Clay, their spouses, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

“Ninety-one years is a great long life and he was a sweet and charming man who really touched a lot of people and we’re fortunate to have experienced it from the inside,” Clay Richmond said.

Funeral services are planned for Thursday, Feb. 20, at 11 a.m. at Sunset Ridge Church of Christ, 95 Brees Blvd.

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.