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Herman Petty, McDonald’s First Black Franchise Owner, Honored With His Own Street In Woodlawn

Herman Petty opened the McDonalds at 65th and Stony Island in December 1968. "Make no mistake — Herman Petty was a true history maker and risk taker," the restaurant's current owner said.

Members of Herman Petty's family, members of the Black Mcdonald's Operators Association and others celebrate the unveiling of Herman Petty Way on the corner of 65th Street and Stony Island Ave., on Monday, May 23, 2022.
Maia McDonald/Block Club Chicago
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WOODLAWN — Five decades after Herman Petty became the first Black person to open a McDonald’s, a stretch of the South Side street where the restaurant still stands has an honorary name in tribute of the entrepreneur.

City officials dubbed a section of Marquette Road between Stony Island Avenue and Dorchester Avenue “Herman Petty Way” in a ceremony Monday with the Black McDonald’s Operators Association. Members of Petty’s family, other Black McDonald’s owners and local officials joined the event outside the restaurant Petty opened in 1968 at 6560 S. Stony Island Ave.

Petty died in 2009.

Credit: Maia McDonald/Block Club Chicago
A newly-unveiled street sign marking Herman Petty Way on the corner of 65th Street and Stony Island Ave. in Woodlawn.

One of Petty’s granddaughters, Latrice Orr, said her grandfather’s legacy is continuing to inspire her and others to follow in his footsteps. 

“He inspired others to believe in themselves, to know that nothing is unattainable if you put in the work and put your mind to it,” Orr said. “My grandfather worked hard for his family and instilled to all of us to be independent, always chase your dreams. Herman Petty wanted his grandchildren, children and even great grandchildren to achieve great things in life and wants them to never give up and always remember dreams [aren’t] impossible.”

Besides opening his restaurant, Petty’s career would also lead the way to the creation of the National Black McDonald’s Operators Association.

Joe Erlinger, the president of McDonald’s USA, said Petty would have a room named for him at the future Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park through a partnership between the Obama Foundation and McDonald’s.

“This will obviously preserve his ongoing legacy and we also believe that it will inspire future entrepreneurs,” Erlinger said. “So we are incredibly excited to partner with the Obama Foundation as they work to inspire, empower, and connect the next generation of leaders to evolve and support this great city of Chicago that we all call home.” 

Yolanda Travis bought Petty’s McDonald’s location in 2007, remodeling the space to feature photos and signage of Petty and other notable Black McDonald’s owner-operators. She said the street name was her idea, which local leaders including Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) supported.

“It was my idea because you have few or no Black museums or monuments or [any landmarks on the South Side of Chicago,” Travis said. “Make no mistake — Herman Petty was a true history maker and risk taker. When he purchased the store, it meant that African Americans could invest in and strengthen our communities, and we’ve been doing that ever since.”

Travis also has a hand in other efforts to honor Petty. She said she also would like to see the building grounds at 65th and Stony Island become an established Chicago landmark. 

Travis said she hopes Petty’s legacy and the street naming inspires others to support other firsts in the Black community.

“We should rally around the first and embrace them, encourage them and say, ‘Okay, I’m first I’m bringing you with me. Come on,’ Travis said. “You reach back and you bring somebody with you. So I think that is the most important thing, that we continue to reach and bring others along into the business.”

Credit: Mia McDonald/Block Club Chicago
McDonald’s owner-operator Yolanda Travis (bottom, second from left) with members of Herman Petty’s family and members of the Black McDonald’s Operators Association at the Herman Petty Way street sign unveiling on Monday, May 23, 2022.

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