SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Kenneth J. Walker, founder of Advantage Rent-A-Car, died Jan. 16. He was 81.
Walker's career in car rental began in 1963, when he moved his wife and family to San Antonio and launched $3.99 Car Rentals.
During the 1960s and 70s, the company grew largely through the acquisition of several different franchises. In 1984, Walker consolidated all operations under the name of Advantage Rent-A-Car.
The company, headquartered in San Antonio, is still family-owned. Advantage also owns and operates Star Shuttle & Charter and Abbey Walker Executive Cars & Limousines in Central and South Texas.
Walker is survived by his wife, Helen Lee; daughter Lee and her husband, Warren Cowley, of Austin; son Jimmy and his wife, Kay, of Lake McQueeney; son Bob and his wife, Pattie, of San Antonio; son John and his wife, Suzie, of San Antonio; and son Mark of San Antonio.
Additionally, Walker is survived by 17 grandchildren and four great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by all four of his siblings: Helen, Shirley, Earl and Beverly.
Walker was born to Joel Walker and Edith Rasmussen Walker in Sparta, Wis., on July 29, 1923. He grew up in Waukegan, Ill. He started his first career at age seven as a newspaper boy. After graduating from Waukegan Township High School, he joined the Army in 1942 to serve during World War II.
After the war, Walker returned to Ft. Sam Houston and San Antonio and eventually resumed his newspaper career in San Antonio, attended college and married Helen Lee Pike from San Antonio. He graduated from Trinity University in 1949 with a degree in accounting.
Before joining the car rental industry, Walker's entrepreneurial endeavors included a successful stint in the greeting card business. He founded Pleasant Thoughts Greeting Card Co., which was eventually sold to Gibson Greetings in 1962.