October 24, 1915|
New York City, New York, United States
|Died||December 30, 2010
Spartanburg, South Carolina, United States
Roger Milliken (October 24, 1915 – December 30, 2010) was a U.S. textile heir and businessman. He served as President and then CEO of his family's company, Milliken & Company, from 1947 until 2005. He continued to serve as Chairman of the Board until his death in 2010. Milliken is known as a political godfather to the American conservative movement.
Deering Milliken Company was co-founded by Roger's grandfather, Seth Milliken, and William Deering in 1865. The small woolens fabric company was initially based in Portland, Maine, but moved to New York City in 1868 after William Deering left Deering Milliken to start the Deering Harvester company (which is today known as Navistar International). In 1884, Deering Milliken Company invested in its first property near Spartanburg, South Carolina, where the company's headquarters have been based since 1958. In 1976, Deering Milliken officially became Milliken & Company
Milliken was born October 24, 1915, in New York City, the eldest son of Gerrish and Agnes (Gayley) Milliken. Roger's grandfather was Seth Milliken, co-founder of what is today known as Milliken & Company. He attended Yale University, where he studied French history and graduated in 1937. After graduation, he started out in New York City’s Mercantile Stores, in which his family had an ownership stake.
In 1941, he was given the stewardship of three small woolen-producing mills in Maine. When his father, Gerrish, died in 1947, the 32-year-old Milliken succeeded him as president.
Milliken met his future wife, Justine (Nita) Van Rensselaer Hooper, at a dinner party. They married in 1948 and had five children.
In 1954, Milliken and his family moved to Spartanburg, South Carolina to reside for the rest of his life. The Milliken family was active in the community, Roger serving on the board of Wofford College and Justine on the board of Converse College. Milliken also served on other corporate and nonprofit boards, including Arthur D. Little, Westinghouse, Citicorp, Mercantile, W.R. Grace, Institute of Textile Technology, Heritage Foundation, the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport Commission, and the Spartanburg Day School. The Millikens spent their summers in Northeast Harbor, Maine.
He was president of Milliken & Company until 1983, when he became chairman and CEO. He relinquished the CEO title in 2005, and remained chairman until his death.
Starting in the 1950s, Milliken helped build the South Carolina Republican Party, which had been in the minority for decades. Milliken helped convince South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond to switch to the Republican Party, and Milliken raised the money for the "Senator Thurmond Speaks for Nixon-Agnew" commercials that formed part of Nixon's Southern Strategy of attracting white Southerners to the Republican Party in the 1968 Presidential election. Milliken was an important conservative donor, and he prominently supported the National Review, the John Birch Society, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Pat Buchanan, Ross Perot, and Congressman Trey Gowdy.
- Katz, Jonathan (1 October 2015). "The Man Who Launched the GOP's Civil War". Politico. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
- Roger Milliken obituary from Anderson Independent Mail newspaper online.
- Rick Perlstein NIXONLAND Scribner's 2008, page 344