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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Betty and Lloyd Davidson, February 2 and 15, 1979. Interview H-0019. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Jim Copland and management of textile mills in the Piedmont

Betty and Lloyd Davidson discuss Jim Copland as a boss and they relay his role in the textile industry during the 1920s and 1930s. In tracing his work in Danville, Virginia, and Burlington, North Carolina, as he became a superintendent, they allude to the nature of textiles management in the Piedmont. In addition, they describe how Copland's son also entered the business and took over Copland Fabric shortly after it was founded in 1941.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Betty and Lloyd Davidson, February 2 and 15, 1979. Interview H-0019. 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

ALLEN TULLOS:
Let's talk for a few minutes about Mr. Jim Copland, the senior Jim Copland. You told a story the other day, Mr. Davidson, about him firing Mr. Parker.
BETTY DAVIDSON:
No, he didn't fire Mr. Parker. My father worked for Mr. Jim Copland in Schoolfield, Virginia.And this incident happened one winter when it was real bad. And this man in the spring of the year he told Mr. Copland, he said, "See the sunshine? I'm going to get out there and make me a crop." And so he left the mill and went out. So that coming winter come a big snow, and so this man was working and Mr. Copland come up to him and said, "See the big snow outdoors?" He says, "Yeah." He says, "Now you get out there in it."
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
That was his way of getting even.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Where did the Coplands come from? What was their background?
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
They were originally from Alabama.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Is that right?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
Yeah.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And then there was another story that you told about an incident one time when he——something had gone wrong in the mill?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
No, I came to Plaid Mill March 21, 1932 and Mr. Copland put me to work with the reference of my father, because he knew my father. And he expected everybody to work just like he worked. One day he came through the mill and I had a pickwheel missing. So he got me down, said, "Betty, you see that pickwheel's missing?" And he caught ahold of my arm and he didn't realize how big his hands was, and left the print of all of his fingers on my arm. But he didn't aim to hurt me, he just did it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
You said, he expected everybody to work like he did …
BETTY DAVIDSON:
Like he did.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What do you mean?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
Well, he was a hard working man, and he wanted you to work hard. He expected you to work just like he did. He didn't expect any more out of you than he did. He kept busy, real busy.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What was their background? What kind of a family did they come from? Were they farming people?
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
I really don't know too much about them.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was it a well-to-do family?
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
I really don't know, but they are originally from Alabama. But now when they came to Alabama from Virginia I'm not sure about that.
ALLEN TULLOS:
You don't know how they worked their way up, or how he did?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
No.
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
Back when my father worked for him he was——at that time he was a weaving room overseer, so he was a knowledgeable person then, because he was already a weave room overseer and that was back, I guess back in the twenties. So he had mill knowledge then.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Why had he left the mill there in Danville, Dan River Mill, to come here?
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
I really don't know. I don't know that far back. Well, when we came to Burlington, Mr. Copland was the superintendent of Plaid Mill and J. R., Jr., as we called him then, he was in college——it was in his college years. He was learning the weave room business, and he would spend his summer months out of college in the weave room. He was learning to fix looms when we first came here. During the summer he spent his summer months learning to fix looms. And learning the weave room business.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And then what happened to the Coplands? What became of the father and the son?
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
He was at Plaid Mill for a number of years. I don't remember——I believe he went to Swepsonville after he left Plaid. Virginia Cotton Mill was what the mill really was, and it was closed during the depression. And after the Depression years, during Roosevelt was elected president and the mills started starting up everywhere then. And Plaid Mill started up that old Virginia Mill at Swepsonville, and Mr. Copland went down there and run that mill for a good while. And then, I'm not sure when he went to started up Copland Fabrics, but Mr. Copland and Mr. Fowler, and some of the other businessmen here——Mr. Maynard may have been in on that, probably was——they went in and bought Copland Fabrics and started a plant over there.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And now what about James, Jr. Did he go to Swepsonville?
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
I'm not sure. But he stayed in the mill business. He more or less followed in his father's footsteps. Mr. J. R., Senior, he wasn't over Copland Fabrics very long before he got in poor health and J. R. Junior, he taken over then and he's been connected with it ever since. Course I don't think he's maybe too active now, but he's still one of the senior officers over there, I think.