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WICHITA FALLS, Texas — One of the early leaders in the convenience store industry, Fred Lowder, passed away on June 21. Lowder, who served as president of NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing in 1966, was 83.
After earning an accounting degree from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls and serving in the U.S. Army, Lowder joined the family business, Jiffy Food Stores. The business eventually grew to include 66 convenience stores, Wholesale Food Distribution Co. and a real estate company.
In the 1960s, he was the first retailers in the area, and one of the first retailers in the country, to bring self-service fueling and Icee machines to his stores, according to NACS.
After selling his interest in the 66-store chain, Lowder bought the Happy Food Stores c-store chain in Oklahoma City. Upon the sale of that chain, he founded Discovery Training Ministries, a Dallas-based nonprofit providing seminars to deliver learning skills for ongoing life enrichment and quality of life.
Lowder was active in the c-store industry and in the early days of NACS. According to the association, he was one of the 33 people to attend the first NACS annual meeting in 1961 and attended 46 of the first 47 NACS annual meetings.
Lowder served as NACS president in 1966 — a key year for the association as it moved from California to Washington, D.C, according to NACS.
The same year NACS held its annual meeting — the precursor to the NACS Show —in Las Vegas, making NACS the first food-related association to hold a meeting there.
“We were the renegades. All the food industry was saying, ‘You upstarts, that’s not the place to have a meeting. It’s sin city.’ But we had a meeting in Las Vegas anyway, and the rest is history,” Lowder later said.
Later on, Lowder was instrumental in creating the Prayer Breakfast at the NACS Show, which eventually became one of the highest-attended events at the annual show.
"Fred and those other industry pioneers reshaped our industry and allowed us to grow to the level we are today. His positive impact on our industry in terms of its growth — and its culture and spirit — will continue to resonate for years to come," said NACS President and CEO Henry Armour.
In addition to his work with NACS, Lowder was president of the Texas Retail Grocery Association.
Lowder is survived by his wife, Linda Gray Lowder; two sons, Steve and Kevin; and five grandchildren.
To read his full obituary, click here.