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Correction to This Article
The Nov. 15 obituary for Domino's Pizza franchisee Frank Meeks gave an incorrect source for a quotation from Mr. Meeks. The quote appeared in the Jan. 15, 2004, Washington Times, not The Washington Post. Descriptive information about Mr. Meeks also should have been attributed to the Times article.

Top Domino's Franchisee Frank Meeks Dies

By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 15, 2004; Page B05

Frank Meeks, whose enthusiasm for pizza, politics and promotion garnered him an extra-large slice of the local pizza-delivery market and whose Domino's Pizza franchise, known as "Team Washington," often delivered to the White House, the Pentagon and Congress, died Nov. 9 of complications from pneumonia at Sibley Memorial Hospital. He was 48 and lived in Mount Vernon.

Mr. Meeks, who owned 60 Domino's Pizza operations in the area, was often in the public eye with his off-the-wall antics, political predictions and creative promotions. In December, for example, he announced that the Pizza Meter -- an unscientific poll that examines the relationship between pizza orders and public events -- found that the top fake name used that year by people ordering pizza was Paris Hilton, the hotel heiress.

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The meter also found that the night of Saddam Hussein's capture was the biggest tipping night of the year and that the Washington Redskins order more pizza than any other NFL team.

"P.R. is not as important as the quality of pizza and the service, but it gets people's attention," Mr. Meeks told The Washington Post this year. "It's made Washington, D.C., one of the strongest markets for Domino's Pizza in the world."

Mr. Meeks enjoyed pointing out that his stores have delivered pizza to five U.S. presidents. He claimed that pizza delivery was something of a barometer for major political and military decisions, noting the short-term increases in deliveries to government offices on nights prior to the invasion of Grenada and the start of the Persian Gulf War.

During the first government shutdown in 1995, then-Senate Majority Whip Trent Lott, an old friend and fellow Mississippian, called Mr. Meeks late one night to say Republican senators were caucusing and had no place to eat. Mr. Meeks delivered the pizzas himself.

He did the same thing in 1997 when White House negotiators were working with Republican congressional leaders to craft a balanced budget. "Newt Gingrich said . . . he was going to break his diet," Mr. Meeks said sometime later.

Mr. Meeks, an ardent Republican, claimed that particular delivery precipitated the Monica Lewinsky affair. It was the White House intern who reported to President Clinton that the pizza had arrived.

Politics brought Mr. Meeks to Washington. Born in Hattiesburg, Miss., he grew up in Gulfport and graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi, where he majored in political science and English and was elected student body president. He planned to go to law school, but in 1979 he borrowed his mother's car and became a pizza deliveryman for Domino's in Biloxi to defray education costs. Soon after becoming a store manager, he decided that being "a pizza guy" was his future. His parents were "kind of horrified," he recalled in 1998.

In 1972, he had coordinated the youth vote for Lott, then an unknown attorney in Pascagoula, Miss., who was running for a congressional seat in his first try for public office. When Lott won, Mr. Meeks moved to Washington to work as his congressional aide.

After working in Lott's office from 1981 to 1983, Mr. Meeks returned full time to Domino's, a privately owned company based in Ann Arbor, Mich., and was awarded the franchise rights for Northern Virginia, Maryland and the District. He was 26.

Although area banks told him the District was too sophisticated to eat delivered pizza, he knew from his experience on Capitol Hill that there was a ready market in the area because of the many single people and households in which both parents worked.

He operated his business from his home and opened his first store in July 1983, on Duke Street in Alexandria. Four years later, he owned more Domino's locations than any other franchisee in the system.

Mr. Meeks ran his business with something of a rah-rah spirit reminiscent of his college days. Instead of regular weekly business meetings, he held pep rallies, followed by a 10K run with the company's managers.

A fitness buff, he once was asked why he made his living as a purveyor of what many consider junk food. His response was that pizza was one of the healthiest fast foods and that a pizza with meat and vegetables offered all four food groups.

In 1991, Mr. Meeks, then 34, tried to buy Domino's Pizza Inc., from its founder, Tom Monaghan, and move the company to the Washington area. Monaghan, who wanted $1.2 billion for the company, sold it in 1998 to a Boston-based equity investment firm.

In a 1998 interview with The Post, Monaghan described Mr. Meeks as "the greatest franchisee in the history of Domino's."

He was active in numerous philanthropic efforts, including the Children's National Medical Center, Food & Friends and local Little League, and awarded scholarships to his franchise's outstanding team members.

Mr. Meeks was active in Northern Virginia Republican politics. He was a strong financial supporter of J. Marshall Coleman when Coleman ran for governor in 1989 against L. Douglas Wilder, and there was talk among Republican Party leaders in the early 1990s that he might run for Congress. He told The Post in 1991 that he had put aside that dream. "I wouldn't take such a demotion," he said. "It's more profitable to be a pizza delivery boy than a congressman."

Survivors include his mother, Janice Meeks of Woodstock, Ga.; and a brother, Jimmy Meeks of Alexandria.


© 2004 The Washington Post Company