James E. Williams

Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Estel Foods Inc.

James E. Williams Jr. is founder, president and chief executive officer of Estel Foods Inc., which owns and
operates 25 McDonald’s restaurants in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
Williams began his business career with McDonald’s in 1998 with a single store in Granite City, Illinois,
and grew his business one store at a time before acquiring multiple stores in 2014.
Before becoming a McDonald’s owner-operator, Williams served nine years with the U.S. Navy.
Williams was recognized for his military service and earned the U.S. Navy Achievement Award.
Williams serves as an executive board member and president of the African American consumer market
division for the St. Louis McDonald’s Co-op. He also serves on several community boards.
His recent awards and recognition include the St. Louis American 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year Award,
the St. Louis Commerce Business Man of the Year Award, and the prestigious Ronald award in both 2011
and 2020, along with the Fred L. Turner Golden Arch Award in 2021.
In support of young people in his hometown of East St. Louis and surrounding areas, Williams launched
the James E. Williams Sr. Mentoring Program, which teaches essential workplace skills. The program
was named in honor of his parents, James E. Williams Sr., the first African-American mayor of East St.
Louis, and his mother, Lillian Williams, a retired educator.
Williams is a 1983 graduate of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he earned a bachelor’s
degree in political science. He is married and has two children.

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