north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Marker Text:

Essay:
      Burlington Industries, by the mid-1950s the largest textile manufacturer in the world, was founded by James Spencer Love, a native of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who moved to North Carolina in the 1920s. Born in 1896, Love, who had Tar Heel forebears, attended Harvard but war interrupted his graduate school ambitions. At the conclusion of World War I, Love returned home. Unable to find employment in his native state, he moved to Gastonia where he became a payroll clerk at a firm owned by his father and other relatives. Shortly after his arrival, Love and his parents decided to buy out his grandfather. J. Spencer Love would serve as chief of operations. However, a declining market in the early 1920s forced Love to sell the mill and he moved his machinery to Burlington.

      Burlington Mills began operation on July 29, 1924, employing 200 people. The company grew steadily during the 1930s and 1940s. Key to the growth was marketing of rayon items, particularly bedspreads. By 1955, the business had been renamed Burlington Industries, and had expanded to weaving the new synthetics nylon, acrylic, and polyester. The company by then encompassed 75 manufacturing plants with 32,000 employees in ten states and three foreign countries and had earned the title of largest textile corporation in the world. That same year, the company reported sales of nearly $1,000,000 per day. Under Love’s direction, Burlington became known as one of the most forward-looking textile corporations. It was among the first in the industry to adopt human resources management and led in the campaign against unions in the South.

      Aside from business, Love supported education as well as racial harmony and justice. He served as a trustee of the University of North Carolina and Davidson College, and founded the Burlington Industries Foundation, a scholarship fund for college-bound youth. He took an active role in attempting to quell racial tension during the Greensboro sit-ins. Love died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1962 in West Palm Beach. At his death, Burlington Industries was the 48th largest corporation in the United States with annual sales of $913 million, $607 million in assets, and 62,000 employees.


References:
Carole W. Troxler and William M. Vincent, Shuttle and Plow (1999)
Don Bolden, Remembering Alamance County: Tales of Railroads, Textiles, and Baseball (2006)
Annette C. Wright, “Strategy and Structure in the Textile Industry,” Business History Review (1995): 42 ff.
North Carolina Business Hall of Fame website: http://historync.org
Burlington Industries website: http://www.burlington.com
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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