Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Slain Owner 'Always There for Employees'; Business Goes on in Lake Butler, but amid an Upheaval in Emotions

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Slain Owner 'Always There for Employees'; Business Goes on in Lake Butler, but amid an Upheaval in Emotions

Article excerpt

Byline: Derek Kinner

LAKE BUTLER | By all accounts, Marvin Pritchett was a born businessman.

Both of his parents died before he was 9, but he persevered and became a star high school football player and later a successful businessman in Northeast Florida, eventually founding a trucking company that employed 400 and co-founding 14 truck dealerships in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

He also owned a timber company and a farm, Rolling Oaks, and had several other business interests.

"He was a self-made man, no doubt about it," said Bill Thomas, a former Pritchett employee and a 47-year resident of this small town of 2,000.

At 80, Pritchett was still involved in some of his companies when he was fatally shot by a former employee on Aug. 24 under circumstances that authorities say they still can't explain. Hubert Allen Jr., 72, who had worked for Pritchett for years as an overseer at Rolling Oaks until leaving the job two weeks earlier, killed Pritchett and two former co-workers and wounded another before taking his own life at his home on Pritchett's farm property.

Investigators and family say they still do not know what sparked the shootings. Pritchett Trucking Inc. spokesman Steve Perez said Allen left the business two weeks earlier, but would not give any details because of the ongoing investigation.

"I can just say our records state that he [Allen] retired," Perez said.

Pritchett's businesses had many connections to Northeast Florida, including a Nextran truck dealership in Jacksonville. There are other Nextran dealerships in Orlando and Miami in Florida, and in Georgia and Alabama.

Many of the company's logging trucks traverse Florida A1A carrying trees from his timber business to paper and pulp mills in Fernandina Beach.

There was little disruption in business operations, Perez said, despite the unexpected death. Though Marvin Pritchett was still CEO, he had relinquished most of the operations of his holdings to Jon Pritchett, who is president, and another son, Phillip Pritchett, vice president of operations.

"In terms of day-to-day operations, no, there will not be [interruptions]; in terms of emotions, it's an upheaval," Perez said.

More than 500 people attended Pritchett's funeral Friday at his church, First Christian Church. Later that evening, fans and players at Union County High School's home football opener honored him and the other victims during a moment of silence while a Pritchett Trucking cab slowly circled the field.

The Pritchett family declined interview requests.

A NATIVE SON

Marvin Pritchett was born in Lake Butler in 1933 and, except for college and military service during the Korean War, spent his life there.

According to various news stories, Pritchett's business acumen was obvious early, when he started harvesting and selling pine sap at the same time he was attending Union County High School and starring on the football field, a sport that earned him a college scholarship. …

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