Franklin O. Meeks, founder and owner of the successful Domino's Pizza franchise known as "Team Washington," died Tuesday, Nov. 9., at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., of complications from pneumonia. He was 48.
While his body is gone, Frank Meeks' charisma and determination were attested to Saturday morning during a memorial service held at his church, Washington Farm United Methodist Church, in the Mount Vernon section of Alexandria. The church's main sanctuary was full, as were the basement level, another separate building, and the main entrance way toward Old Mill Road.
"Frank influenced the people he knew because he was sensitive to who created him. He touched all our lives in many ways," said the Rev. Byron R. Wilkinson, Sr., pastor, Washington Farm United Methodist Church.
That fact became obvious with the testimony to Meeks' life by three close friends and associates. In referencing the previous day's constant downpour, Adam Beck reminded the audience, "Frank always saw the rain in a positive way. One of his favorite sayings when it rained was 'We're getting coupons from heaven.'"
Beck said he had known Meeks since he was a teenager. "There was never a dull moment around Frank. He was passionate about everything he did. He loved Domino's Pizza and the people who worked for him. He always gave credit to the people around him," Beck said.
Meeks had four guiding principles, Beck reported: Think big, keep it simple, take care of your employees, and have fun. "Thanks for the memories, Frank. I lost a boss, mentor, and friend," Beck said.
THOSE SENTIMENTS were buttressed by David Carraway, who knew Meeks for more than 28 years. "He was a larger than life individual with a great sense of humor," he said.
As an example of that humor he recalled how Meeks would put out a schedule of his events to keep employees informed. On one such schedule, it showed a meeting with President George H.W. Bush, but gave no details of the meeting's purpose.
As speculation ran throughout the company, nobody bothered to look at the date of the meeting on the schedule. "That's right. It was April 1," said Carraway. "He will be fondly remembered and greatly missed."
For Scott Shelton, Meeks was like a father figure. "He had thousands of children and I'm one of them. But, he never called me Scott. He said I looked more like a Todd, and that's what he called me," Shelton said.
Frank Meeks was born on Aug. 27, 1956 in Hattiesburg, Miss. He was raised in Gulfport, Miss., the son of Janice and the late Tommy Meeks, who died in October of 2002. He survived by his mother, Janice Meeks of Woodstock, Ga., and his brother, Jimmy Meeks of Alexandria.
After graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi, where he was elected student body president, with a degree in political science and English, Meeks planned to go on to law school. To defray those educational costs, he began delivering pizza for Domino's Pizza in 1979. He soon became a store manager and decided Domino's Pizza, not law school, was where his future was headed.
In 1972 he had been bitten by another bug -- politics. He coordinated the youth vote for an unknown attorney from Pascagoula, Miss. by the name of Trent Lott who was making his initial run for the U.S. House of Representatives. In December 1980, Meeks came to Washington to serve as a congressional aide to then U.S. Rep. Lott, who now represents Mississippi in the U.S. Senate.
Following two years in that capacity, Meeks decided to return to Domino's on a full-time basis and was awarded the franchise rights for Northern Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. He opened his first store in July 1983, at age 26, on Duke Street in Alexandria.
Domino's Team Washington fast became one of the most successful franchises in Domino's Pizza, operating 60 stores and delivering pizza to the White House under five presidents. As the owner of more franchises than any other Domino's entrepreneur, Meeks offered to buy the chain in 1991 from owner Thomas Monaghan, but was unsuccessful.
AS AN AWARD-WINNING franchise owner, Meeks was one of the first two inductees into Domino's Pizza Chairman's Circle Hall of Fame. In a letter earlier this year to Domino's chairman and CEO, David A. Brandon, Meeks referred to that event as "one of the greatest honors of my life."
Meeks was also known as a great benefactor and philanthropist. During the memorial service, it was said that many of the people he helped were unknown. He consistently advocated giving back to the community, especially through his employees, by awarding scholarships to his franchise's outstanding Team members, according to Team Washington headquarters in Alexandria.
He supported local high school post-prom and graduation parties, as well as children's leagues for various sports. He was a major contributor to Children's National Medical Center, serving a decade on its Board of Directors. Food & Friends honored him with their "Community Service Award" as recognition of his fundraising on their behalf.
Meeks was chairman of the Washington area Cancer Ball and served on the Board of Directors of the Mount Vernon/Lee Chamber of Commerce. In 2002 that organization recognized him as its "Citizen of the Year."
In accepting that honor, Meeks attributed his success to one formula, "Start at the bottom and do every basic job that there is to do. Work hard. Be honest. Be motivated. And work your way to the top."
He served as a motivational speaker to many groups and organizations throughout his career and ran his business by the same guidelines. An activist in Northern Virginia Republican politics, Meeks was recently honored for his lifetime of achievements by U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11).
The family asks that donations, in lieu of flowers, be made to Washington Farm United Methodist Church, 3921 Old Mill Road, Alexandria, VA 22309; Domino's Pizza Partner's Foundation, 30 Frank Lloyd Wright Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48106; or Food and Friends, 219 Riggs Road, NE, Washington, DC 20011.