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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Roger Gant, July 17, 1987. Interview C-0127. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Jordan updated his mill machinery with the help of friends in various industries

Everett Jordan tried to keep the machinery in his cotton mill modern without being too innovative. He sought advice from friends in textiles, engineering, and computer science. Based on those recommendations, he decided what changes would be made in the mill.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Roger Gant, July 17, 1987. Interview C-0127. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

He always had funny stories to tell and of course he'd built that mill, almost as a personal task from the time Mr. Charlie Sellers helped him buy it in 1927 until his death. He had been personally involved with almost every phase of the cranking up of that mill and the reequipping and the expansion. With his great capacity to remember details, he could tell you of every piece of equipment;when it was bought and what it did, why it was there and what the problems were with it, and what its capabilities were, what it was used for, and how the mill had changed products from time to time; rabbit hair blends at one time, and had rabbit hair all over the mill. And he was a great teacher. He put me on his board of directors very soon after I married Rose Ann; not because I could bring anything to the board, but because I could benefit from being on the board, and I did benefit from it a great deal. I was just a young kid at the time of course, but he recognized that if Sellers shared its experiences with me it would improve my sophistication in my own work and of course he hoped, I'm sure, that my experiences at Glen Raven would make it possible for me to bring something to Sellers board. I don't think I ever did bring much. He and his staff knew so much more about running that kind of business than I did that I couldn't bring it much. But I appreciated greatly his allowing me to sit in on his board meetings.
BEN BULLA:
How did the board function, Roger, was it kind of a sounding board or did it make decisions, or had he already made the decisions himself and just asked approval?
ROGER GANT:
Well the board had great confidence in Everett's ability. His judgment had been good so much of the time; his batting average was so high; and he was conservative in his approach, he believed in having liquidity and not over extending the resources of the corporation. When machinery changes were indicated he investigated the options carefully; he had wonderful rapport with many other textile people and if he wanted to know about a piece of machinery that the manufacturer was trying to sell him, he could call on a half dozen other mills to share with him their opinions about that machinery or that process. He was a very active member of the ATMI, the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, he went to those meetings regularly and served on boards and committees.
BEN BULLA:
Did he ever serve as president of ATMI?
ROGER GANT:
I don't think he did, I'm not sure. He was active in the N. C. Textile Manufacturer's Association, the North Carolina Citizens Association;he was a charter member, one of the founders of that organization I believe. He had many friends not only in the textile business but in many others and if he needed to get other opinions about equipment or management ideas such as industrial engineering or computers, why he had a dozen friends he could call on who would be glad to share their experiences with him, and he with them. So he had a relatively easy and inexpensive way to evaluate new processes or new machinery.
BEN BULLA:
Was this unique with him or did other mill men do this?
ROGER GANT:
I don't think he was unique; I think the textile fraternity generally feels there are not many secrets in the long run and if anybody really wants to find out almost anything that is going on in the textile industry he can. But I think the door was more open to him than it was to a great many people.
BEN BULLA:
He utilized it more fully, perhaps?
ROGER GANT:
He used it, and his door was always open. There are many people in this industry like that though. We have several friends in comparative businesses that we would not hesitate to ask them their opinion about machinery or process nor they us and they would frank and open in their actions. Now there are some secrets in the industry of course and those are not shared freely, but you don't expect them to be. But Everett didn't believe in being a pioneer in new machinery and I think that is correct myself. Somebody else can be the pioneer because there are always bugs in a new process or new equipment and have to be ironed out and smaller mills really can't afford to do that kind of thing on a regular basis. Occasionally they could pioneer something and be a tremendous success, but generally speaking he would let somebody else be the pioneer in new machinery. He believed in keeping his mills modern though. He would put in new drawing frames or winders when it was proven that the new equipment was better than the old. So he kept his mills in good condition. Everett was quite bright about developing new techniques that were needed in the mill. For instance on Sunday when he was in town and we were in town we would usually eat lunch with Everett and Katherine. They'd gather the family together and feed us all lunch;children and everything;a dozen or more of us would not be unusual for Sunday lunch, and after lunch, particularly after Everett had gone to Washington and his time in the mill was fairly limited, he might go down to the mill and play with the new formula for wax disks. If the disks that they were using were not putting enough wax on the yarn, or were putting too much, he knew how to play around with the formula and come up with a disk that would do a better job. I've been with him in the mill a couple of times when he would be doing that or he might go down, if they were overhauling a piece of machinery, and supervise that job and make suggestions about how he thought it could be done better, and those suggestions of course were adopted. He kept his hand on the business all of his life, and he was very smart about not only management but about the technology of running the spinning mill. And he was smart about recognizing his limitations too. When he took over that mill in 1927 it was a spinning and weaving mill and the warps were still on the looms and the assumption was that he could continue to operate as an integrated weaving mill, but Everett said, I don't know anything about those looms and I do know something about spinning frames so lets crank up these spinning frames. We're not going to run those looms, at least for the time being, because I don't know anything about them. So he never did run the looms and he replaced looms with spinning frames eventually when he could afford it. So he recognized that there were possibilities; opportunities available to him in the spinning business without having to take on a new technology about which he knew nothing. He didn't know anything about the manufacturing or the selling of woven goods.