Julian Jackson, a former bantamweight boxer and a pioneer in the c-store industry, who founded Jackson’s Minit Marts and Lil’ Champ Food Stores, died last week. He was 98.
Jackson was a member of the Jacksonville Sports Hall of Fame and the North American Boxing Federation Hall of Fame, the Times-Union reported. Born in Perry, Fla., he grew up in Palatka and then Jacksonville, where he graduated from Andrew Jackson High in 1931. He began boxing in high school.
“When I was a teenager in Palatka,” Jackson told the Times-Union in 1981, “my father would take me to see all the fights in and around town and I made up my mind that this was what I wanted to be — a boxer who would have the crowd cheering.”
At 5 foot 7, he only weighed 120 pounds when he turned pro. He won 65 of his 69 fights during his five years of boxing. Following his boxing career, Jackson, who was working at A&P supermarket, decided to open his own grocery business.
In 1943, Jackson and Trollie Cowart opened Jax Meat Co., and Jackson served as president. They grew the supermarket chain to 10 stores before selling it in 1959. Jackson then founded Jackson’s Minit Market, which quickly grew to become the second largest convenience store chain in the country, with a total of 525 stores when he sold the company in 1968.
Three years later, Jackson founded a new c-store chain, named Lil’ Champ after his boxing days, opening the first store in Gainesville, Fla. His former business partner Cowart followed him and served as vice president until he retired in 1985.The chain grew quickly to about 230 locations before Jackson sold his share of the company for $10.7 million in 1985.
Docks de France, a French supermarket company, bought those shares and eventually gained control of the entire company and merged Lil’ Champ with Jiffy stores. The Pantry later acquired the chain and moved the headquarters from Jacksonville to North Carolina in 2001.
Jackson remained active in Jacksonville sports, particularly boxing, throughout his life. He owned the Jacksonville Beach Seabirds baseball team, a professional team playing in the Florida State League, for several years in the 1950s. He also helped found Jacksonville Charities, which brought National Football League exhibition games to town for years, the Times-Union reported. He was a longtime supporter of Police Athletic League, and the PAL facility in Arlington bears his name.
He is survived by his wife, Lolly; sons Eddie Jackson, Robert Jackson, Victor Jackson, Julian Jackson IV and Lester Jackson, all of Jacksonville, and Julian E. Jackson Jr. of Springdale, Ark.; eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
The family requests contributions be made to Community Hospice of NE Florida, 4266 Sunbeam Road, Jacksonville, FL 32257; or Police Athletic League, 3450 Monument Road, Jacksonville, FL 32225. Funeral services will be private.