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Smile Gas Chain Founder Dies

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Clayton P. Boardman Jr., whose companies revolutionized the Augusta, Ga., region's retail gasoline industry, died last at age 78, according to The Augusta Chronicle.

Boardman, known to family and friends as "Red," was the driving force behind a family of companies that included the Smile Gas convenience store chain, whose trademark smiley-face logo made it an Augusta institution.

Boardman, a 1949 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, was the founder of Boardman Petroleum Inc. He got his start in the industry working for the family oil company, founded in 1904 by his grandfather Hollis C. Boardman.

In 1954, Boardman and his brother Jack started a Phillips 66 distributorship called Red and Jack Oil Co. In the 1970s, as big oil companies increased their pressure on mom-and-pop distributors, Boardman launched the independent Smile Gas brand.

"He looked at that as a challenge," said Mark Stephens, who worked for Boardman's Charter Terminal Co. fuel-distribution business for 23 years. "He could look at some of the most overwhelming circumstances and not be scared." Boardman's son Clayton "Clay" P. Boardman III joined the company in 1984 and eventually took over its operations, expanding it to other markets and modernizing the stores with the latest innovations and technology.

The family began selling the businesses, starting with the Smile Gas stores, in 1999. Tosco Marketing Co., of Phoenix, purchased 67 Smile Gas convenience stores and 20 vacant locations from Boardman Petroleum in the spring of that year. The locations were later converted to the Circle K banner and are now operated by Alimentation Couche-Tard.

The pioneering businessman is also remembered as one of the city's most philanthropic residents.

"He's probably the most generous guy I ever met in my life," said longtime friend Rodger Giles. "He's a legend in his own time." Childhood friend Bill Gary said Boardman was a very social and outgoing individual, but also "very low-key." "He would never tell you anything just to be boastful," Gary said.

Boardman found time to serve on various area organizations and boards of directors even when he was involved in his companies' day-to-day operations.

"I lost a good friend, but our community lost a great citizen," Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said.

Survivors include his wife, Ann Carter Burdell Boardman; two daughters, Carter Boardman Brown and husband Maxcy Paul Brown Jr., of North Augusta, and Hollis Boardman Willig and husband Caldwell Russell Willig, of Prospect, Ky.; two sons, Clayton Pierce Boardman III and wife Catherine Blanchard Boardman, of Augusta, and Braye Camden Boardman and wife Victoria Goodwin Boardman of Augusta; and eight grandchildren, Caldwell Russell Willig Jr., Clayton Boardman Willig, Ann Lawson Willig, Clayton Pierce Boardman IV, Carter Burdell Boardman, Catherine Jones Boardman, Hollis Livingston Boardman and Braye Camden Boardman Jr.

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