COLUMBIA, S.C. - Roger Milliken, who parlayed his family's South Carolina textile business into the kind of wealth that can bankroll major charities and political candidates, died yesterday at age 95, according to a news release from the company.
The Spartanburg icon ran Milliken & Co. for almost 60 years, as president from 1947-83, chairman and CEO from 1983-2003, and chairman from 2003 until his death.
He was a fixture on Forbes magazine's list of richest Americans.
Milliken, born Oct. 24, 1915, was married to the late Justine Van Rensselaer Hooper. They are survived by five children and nine grandchildren.
Milliken & Co., founded in 1865 and headquartered in Spartanburg, manufactures technical and industrial materials, chemicals and floor coverings.
A bitter foe of unions, Milliken ran an international company but opposed the North American Free Trade Act as unfair to U.S. workers.
A staunch Republican, Milliken helped bankroll the 1992 effort of Pat Buchanan to unseat incumbent President George H.W. Bush. Milliken also had spent millions modernizing his family's textile plants and millions more planting trees, a private passion.
In 1999, Milliken established the Noble Tree Foundation to encourage the planting of enduring and beautiful trees, particularly in rundown or overlooked corners of the Greenville-Spartanburg area and at traffic interchanges. In 2004, Milliken received the Frederick Law Olmsted Award, one of the highest honors bestowed by the National Arbor Day Foundation.