Roger Milliken's life was the life of a builder. Upon the death of his father in 1947, he took the reigns of his family business and built it into the greatest privately-held textile company in the world. Each new manufacturing facility that he built demonstrated his focused involvement in every construction detail. He devoured blueprints, and 3-D scale models allowed him to visualize completed projects and make enhancements during construction.
The Roger Milliken Research & Customer Center, named in his honor on his 50th year with the company, began with his vision and continues today as the largest textile research center in the world. In 1995 Milliken's largest carpet plant in LaGrange, GA burned to the ground. Mr. Milliken committed to having the plant designed, constructed, and back in operation in 6 months. He then moved to LaGrange for 6 months and oversaw every construction detail and met his deadline.
Throughout his lifetime, Roger Milliken planted seeds he knew he would never see bear fruit. That did not dampen his enthusiasm for planting trees, landscaping his facilities, beautifying his communities, and creating one of the largest corporate arboretums in the Southeast. Mr. Milliken was green before green was cool. He would often comment that the environmental stewardship initiatives the Company undertook were simply, "The right thing to do." He helped establish the Wofford College Arboretum which now bears his name.
The Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport remains the only U.S. Airport with garden and greenspace on the runway side of the airport -- a detail Mr. Milliken insisted on while designing the airport. He created the Noble Tree Foundation to promote education about trees and the importance of planting "noble" trees for sustainable development that will endure for many decades, even centuries. Many of the beautification projects around Spartanburg came about as a result of the Noble Tree Foundation. Shown here with planting stakes to mark where trees will be planted, he personally staked and sited every tree on the Milliken Campus.
Roger Milliken was passionate about education. From the founding of Spartanburg Day School to the Institute of Textile Technology (ITT), he believed in life-long learning. His generous support of Wofford College, Converse College, and other institutions of higher learning, resulted in him being awarded thirteen (13) Honorary Doctorate degrees.
In the 1980's he established Milliken University, the educational arm of Milliken & Company, to better prepare his company workforce to meet the technological and educational requirements of the future.
Roger Milliken was honored in an article by Benjamin Dunlap, the President of Wofford College, in March of 2001. To read this article, click here.