CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - James F. Woodson, co-founder of the Taco John's restaurant chain, has died. He was 87.
Woodson died of natural causes at a Scottsdale, Ariz., hospital Friday, said Barry Sims, Taco John's president and CEO.
Cheyenne-based Taco John's operates and franchises more than 420 restaurants in 25 states.
Woodson and Harold Holmes started the chain in 1969 when they acquired the franchise rights to a downtown Cheyenne restaurant called the Taco House. They changed the name to Taco John's and opened their first franchises in Torrington, Rapid City, S.D., and Scottsbluff, Neb.
The partners intentionally targeted small towns, where competition from other franchise restaurants would be less intense, according to a news release from the company.
Sims said Woodson remained on the Taco John's International Inc. board of directors until his death. Woodson had earlier passed his 50 percent ownership of the company to his daughter, Janet Taylor of Sheridan.
Sims said the vast majority of Taco John's restaurants are independent franchises. Taco John's International employs 65 people at its franchise support center and another 120 people in its restaurant division, most of them in Cheyenne.
Sims said Woodson was highly respected in the company.
"He was a caring mentor for so many of our employees and franchise owners - he truly loved everything about the Taco John's business," Sims said.
Holmes and his family still own the other half of the business.