J.L. “Sonny” Williams (left) poses at the 2006 Russell H. Perry Dinner at Dallas Baptist University, where Williams served on the board. Photo courtesy of DBU.

J.L. “Sonny” Williams, who was a minority owner of the Dallas Mavericks and Bryan Adams alumnus, died Saturday from esophageal cancer. He was 78, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Williams, the Minyard Food Stores president, worked with his wife, Gretchen Minyard Williams, along with her sister and cousin to build the grocery chain into a billion-dollar company. At its height, the store had more than 80 locations and employed 7,200 people.

Photo courtesy of Dallas College.

He and his wife of 43 years, who survives him, owned the Highland Park Soda Fountain from 2006 until it closed in 2018. Williams also, at one point, owned the Dallas Sidekicks indoor soccer team.

Throughout his life, Williams served on the boards of his alma mater Dallas Baptist University, the State Fair, the SMU Athletic Forum, GuideStone, the American Red Cross and Dallas College.

Williams was born in Memphis in 1943. His family moved to Dallas in 1956, and his mother began working at the Minyard location on Peavy and Garland Road.

He graduated from Bryan Adams High School in 1961. He became a store manager at Minyard by age 19 and was named president of the grocery chain by 1987.

There will be a memorial service at 2 p.m. Friday at Park Cities Baptist Church.