Roger Milliken, 95, a South Carolina textile magnate 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.
Milliken & Co. spokesman Richard Dillard said that Mr. Milliken died in Spartanburg, S.C., surrounded by family.
Friends and admirers said that Mr. Milliken was a political force who built his family business into an industry giant but remained caring for those around him.
Karen Floyd, chairwoman of the state GOP, said that Mr. Milliken would be remembered as a patriot who created jobs and built the state party.
Born in New York, he graduated from Yale University 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.
He 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.
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 but remained chairman of the board.
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 U.S. textile industry declined. - AP