Roger Milliken, 95, S.C. textile magnate
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina textile magnate Roger Milliken, who at one time was ranked among the nation’s wealthiest people and helped turn the state’s Republican Party into a powerhouse, died Thursday. He was 95.
Milliken & Co. spokesman Richard Dillard said Mr. Milliken died in Spartanburg surrounded by family. A cause of death was not immediately available.
Friends and admirers said Mr. Milliken was a political force who built his family business into an industry giant, but someone who remained caring for those around him.
“There are no adequate words for the impact this great man had on his industry, his state, his country, and for that matter, the world,’’ said Lewis F. Gossett, president and chief executive officer of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance.
Karen Floyd, chairwoman of the state GOP, said Mr. Milliken will be remembered as a patriot who created jobs and built the state party.
Mr. Milliken was born in New York in 1915 and graduated from Yale in 1937. He started work in the New York office of the Mercantile Stores his family partially owned, employed as a “follow-up boy’’ making sure coats and suits were delivered to stores.
Mr. Milliken became president of Spartanburg-based Milliken & Co. when his father died in 1947. He served as president until 1983, when he became chairman and chief executive.
During his 70 years as leader of Milliken & Co., Mr. Milliken expanded his family’s business from a handful of plants to 50 manufacturing facilities in seven countries. He stepped away from day-to-day management of the company in 2005.
In 2000, Mr. Milliken was ranked 338th on Forbes magazine’s list of the 400 richest Americans, with an estimated worth of $850 million. His wealth peaked at $1 billion in 2003, according to Forbes, but he fell off the list two years later as the US textile industry declined.
Mr. Milliken contributed to the widespread adoption of bar coding, rapid response standards, supplier recognition, and many other practices now standard in the industry. He also was a leader in the “Crafted with Pride in the USA’’ program developed to combat imported textile goods in the early 1980s.