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First Coast Success: Willard Payne Jr.

Karen Brune Mathis

Willard Payne Jr. is a Jacksonville business and civic leader who moved to Northeast Florida in 1975.

It was almost 40 years ago when the former Chicago public school teacher and administrator was awarded several McDonald’s franchises in Jacksonville.

Payne became the first African-American franchise operator in the city and opened four stores, creating more than 500 jobs. He later sold the franchises and runs several businesses.

He is president of Northern Florida Recruiting and Consulting Services, which provides professional recruiting, consulting and lobbying.

LISTEN: Karen's full First Coast Success interview with Willard Payne Jr.

Payne, 72, also was the first in Jacksonville for many other roles. He was the first African-American to serve on the Jacksonville Port Authority in 1979 and the first to join the Rotary Club of Jacksonville in 1988 and to serve as its president in 2003-04. He also served as the first president of the 100 Black Men of Jacksonville.

He’s also been appointed to city and state panels and commissions.

You can read a transcript of the full interview at

You can follow Karen Brune Mathis on Twitter @MathisKb.