Textile magnate, philanthropist Roger Milliken has died at age 95

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Roger Milliken‘s epitaph will simply read, “Builder.”

The textile magnate, lifelong philanthropist and community leader died Thursday at the age of 95, surrounded by his children and grandchildren at Spartanburg Regional Hospice Home. But not before building a lasting legacy.

Through his business empire, his funding of local education, his politics and his proliferation of the hobbies that gave him enjoyment, Milliken arguably did more to shape Spartanburg during the last half of the 20th century than any other individual.

Born Oct. 24, 1915, in New York City, Milliken moved to Spartanburg in 1953, bringing his namesake company’s headquarters with him. For more than 60 years, the man who studied French history at Yale University led the business his grandfather and a partner launched in 1865, growing the Milliken name into a worldwide brand known for its innovation in textile and chemical manufacturing.

Today, the privately held company has more than 2,300 patents in the U.S. alone and 9,000 associates at 50 locations in seven countries, with more than 19,000 textile and chemical products. Internationally, publications point to Milliken as the visionary who renewed his family’s business, even as other mills shuttered and sent manufacturing jobs overseas. In 1999, Textile World magazine named him its leader of the century.

In a statement released Thursday evening, Milliken’s five children said their father lived a rewarding 95 years.

“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,” his children wrote.

A textile leader

Milliken grew his company into one of the top 50 privately held companies in the country.

“Here is a guy who took a decent size company, not a little mom-and-pop company, and made it into a multibillion-dollar company,” said Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition. “We need to understand that massive expansion is attributed to one man. He had this uncanny ability to predict and understand what was going on, not just on any particular day, but five years from now. He knew what it took to get to the next level.”

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