SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Roger Milliken, one of the last in the tradition of industrialists who built America’s manufacturing success, died Thursday at the age of 95. He was the chairman of Milliken & Co., a prominent textile and chemical manufacturer.
A memorial service to celebrate his life is scheduled for 2 p.m. today here at the Episcopal Church of the Advent.
Under his leadership, the company—founded in 1865 by his grandfather, Seth Milliken, and expanded by his father, Gerrish—grew to become the largest privately held textile and chemical manufacturer in the world and home to the world’s largest textile research facility. Milliken & Co. has more than 2,300 patents in the United States alone and 9,000 associates working at 50 locations in seven countries.
Milliken became company president upon the death of his father in 1947, and served in that capacity until becoming chairman and CEO in 1983. He stepped aside from daily management in 2006, and continued as board chairman until his death.
“We are in a profound state of sadness,” says Milliken & Co. CEO Joe Salley. “Not only was Mr. Milliken a great leader, but he was also the consummate builder. He helped build businesses and educational institutions, manufacturing plants and academic facilities, communities and arboreta. Most of all, he gained and built upon the gratitude, admiration and love of all the associates of Milliken & Co. We will miss him greatly.”
Survivors include two daughters, Jan and Nancy; three sons, Roger Jr., David and Weston; nine grandchildren; his brother, Gerrish; his sister, Anne; and many nieces and nephews. His wife of 55 years, Nita, preceded him in death.
“Daddy lived a rewarding 95 years,” his children said in a statement. “We are grateful, as was he, for the friendship and support from so many that enabled him to live a full, productive, creative and passionate life. He enjoyed every minute of it.”
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to The Noble Tree Foundation in care of The Spartanburg County Foundation, 424 E. Kennedy Street, Spartanburg, SC 29302.
An online tribute to Milliken has been established so that associates, business colleagues, friends and others may learn more about his life. Information, a brief biography, and several tribute videos can be accessed here.
A memory book for leaving tributes can be found here.