Most of you are familiar with the story of W.S. Stuckey, Sr. However, for those of you who aren’t familiar, we’ll go ahead and catch you up real quick.
Williamson Sylvester Stuckey (or just “Stuckey” to everybody who was his friend and he had a lot of them) was born on March 26, 1909, in Wilkinson County, Georgia to William I. Stuckey, a farmer, and his wife Sally (née Williamson) who moved to Eastman, Georgia soon after Williamson was born. Stuckey attended local Eastman schools and upon graduation began studying law at the University of Georgia – Athens. In his third year of law school, however, the Depression had come to rural Georgia, driving cotton prices to an all-time low. As a result, Stuckey left school to go help his struggling family.
And indeed, things were pretty bad when he got home. So bad, in fact, that there was no money to feed the mules. As a result, quite often, they became so weak they just lay down on the ground and Stuckey would have to lift them up to get them working again. He knew there had to be another way to help his family.
Desperate, young Stuckey went to family friend, Mr. Fred E. Bennett, Sr., begging for work. “Well,” said Mr. Bennett, “I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you ride around the country and buy up some these pecans these fellas are growing ‘round here and I’ll try and sell ‘em for you.”
Asking his grandmother, Cora Lee Williamson, for a loan, she gave him all the money she had to her name – $35. Stuckey took the money and started driving his Model A Ford Coupe around the pecan farms outside of Eastman, Georgia, and with the help of John King, a black man who worked on the family farm, W.S. Stuckey officially got into the pecan business selling $4,500 dollars worth of them his first year.
By 1936, he was selling over $150,000 dollars worth of pecans that he bought himself and sold to a processor. Next, he built a little lean-to shack on Highway 23 in Eastman selling pecans, sugar cane juice, syrup, homemade quilts, and “all you can drink for five-cents” cherry cider. It was then and there that Stuckey’s was born.
After coaxing his wife Ethel to take some of those sacks of pecans and make some pecan pralines, things really started taking off at that little shack. After she tried out a recipe for pecan log rolls and added her own secret ingredient (maraschino cherries) to the mix, things got so good that the next year Stuckey built his own store right there in Eastman. The year after that there was a store in Unadilla, Georgia. Another soon followed in Hilliard, Florida with each Stuckey’s making their own candy on site.
Unfortunately, Stuckey’s franchise expansion was slowed by World War II when Stuckey was forced to close his Unadilla branch. Sometime later, the Hilliard Stuckey’s burned to the ground. However, during the war, Stuckey managed to stay afloat during the after buying a candy making factory in Jacksonville, Florida, and securing a government contracts making candy for the troops.
However, Mr. Stuckey was a natural born entrepreneur and was more than just a candy man who sold pecan treats on the side of the road. As a matter of fact, he was a man who wore many hats. In 1946, for example, Stuckey bought a farm machinery dealership that sold tractors and farm equipment. He would later also buy a seed, feed, and fertilizer business and a furniture store in Alamo, Georgia.
After the war, he sold the Jacksonville plant and focused on building more Stuckey’s franchises nationwide. However, that still didn’t slow his entrepreneurial spirit. In 1955, for instance, he added oil drilling to his list of things he invested in. Around the same time he also went into real estate development on St. Simon’s Island and, like his friend Kemmons Wilson, Stuckey even dabbled in the hospitality industry, opening up four hotels he called the Stuckey’s Carriage Inn.
Adding politics to his repertoire, Stuckey was elected to Georgia State Legislature.
Stuckey was also a philanthropist. A man of strong faith, Stuckey was a Methodist and sponsored a scholarship at Emery University for any person studying the ministry. And never forgetting his roots, he gave out thousands of free pecan trees to aspiring young pecan farmers through the local 4-H.
So, the next time you stop at your nearest Stuckey’s location and start savoring the nostalgic taste of a Stuckey’s pecan log roll, remember that, along with helping you create memories of your ultimate family road trip, W.S. Stuckey, Sr. was a man of many talents who contributed much to how we travel the highways and byways of America, but also contributed much to the progress of southeastern Georgia and Georgia as a whole.
By the way, while you’re savoring that pecan log roll, go ahead and grab a few rolls, and some of our other fine pecan candies and road trip snacks for the folks back home. And don’t forget our Stuckey’s branded t-shirts, hats, and mugs and other Stuckey’s memorabilia always makes great road trip so much more memorable.
By the way, even if there are no Stuckey’s locations near you yet, it’s now easier than ever to get Stuckey’s merchandise delivered right to your front door, just like Mr. Stuckey used to do back in his day. Visit our website and find out how today at stuckeys.com.
Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!
Whether your next road trip is by car or by rail, it’s not really a road trip without taking Stuckey’s along. From our world famous Stuckey’s Pecan Log Rolls to our mouthwatering Hunkey Dorey, Stuckey’s has all the road trips snacks you’ll need to get you where you’re going.
For all of the pecany good treats and cool merch you’ll need for your next big road adventure, browse our online store now!
Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!