Textile tycoon Roger Milliken, who passed away last week

Textile tycoon Roger Milliken, who passed away last week

Textile tycoon Roger Milliken, chairman of one of the world’s largest closely held textile, chemical and floor-covering manufacturers, passed away on Thursday 30 December at the age of 95.

Milliken, who led Spartanburg, South Carolina based Milliken & Company for 71 years, was one of the last in the tradition of great industrialists who built America’s manufacturing success, expanding the business from a handful of plants to 50 manufacturing facilities in seven countries.

Born 24 October 1915, in New York City, Milliken’s working life began in the New York office of Mercantile Stores, in which his family had an ownership stake. In 1941, he was given the stewardship of three small woollen mills in Maine, succeeding his father as president in 1947.

Early in his career, he built what would grow to become the world’s largest and most productive textile and chemical research facility, now holding more than 2300 patents in the US alone.

And his dedication to quality in manufacturing that helped keep Milliken & Company competitive against lower-cost suppliers outside the US.

He also achieved notoriety after promising to keep 700 people employed after a devastating fire destroyed the Live Oak carpet manufacturing plant in LaGrange, Georgia, in 1995. Mr Milliken also committed to have the plant up and operating again within six months, a promise that was kept.

A member of both the National and the South Carolina Business Halls of Fame, Mr Milliken was repeatedly recognised as the 20th-century’s greatest leader in American textiles because of the technological and workforce innovations his company brought to the industry.

He also launched the nationally known “Crafted with Pride in the USA” advertising campaign in 1985, which aimed to control the flood of textile imports that were threatening the US textile and apparel industry.

And in 2001, in his mid-80s, he co-founded the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC), whose mission is “to preserve and create American manufacturing jobs through the establishment of trade policy and other measures necessary for the US manufacturing sector to stabilise and grow.”