Roger Milliken, 95

Retail Editor 3, January 3, 2011

Spartanburg, S.C. - Roger Milliken, known as much for his innovations in the textiles business as for his vehement defense of the American industry against exports, died on Dec. 30, 2010.
Milliken, who remained as chairman of privately owned Milliken & Co., was 95 and the cause of death according to published reports was multiple illnesses including leukemia.
While Milliken was primarily involved in the apparel fabrics business, it did have a good-sized home textiles business at one point, notably its Visa fabric, which was a staple of the tablecloth business. Milliken did not make finished products but was a key supplier to companies that did.
Milliken took over what had been a family business called Deering. In 1947, at age 31 following the death of his father, he ran the firm as ceo through 1983 when he turned over that role to a non-family outsider.
But he remained the public face - and voice - of the company, no more so than in the fight over the North American Free Trade Agreement during the 1990s, a battle that he ultimately lost and one that he felt would bring an end of the American textiles industry as it existed then. He, of course, turned out to be right, but Milliken like other companies moved some operations overseas. None the less, he was the founder and key supporter of the original Crafted With Pride in the U.S.A. Council, which promoted American-made products.
His outspokenness on the import issue was matched by his close-mouthed attitude about his own company. One report suggested that Milliken was doing $4 billion a year in 2000, but Milliken never acknowledged or confirmed those reports. It is unknown how large the company remains today or how extensive its involvement is in the home business.
Services were held here today for Milliken, who is survived by five children and nine grandchildren.

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