He was born in 1930, in Olathe, Kan., but when he was just 1 year old, his family moved to Northwest Arkansas, where he grew up in Springdale. He completed high school at Kemper Military School in Booneville, Mo., then attended the University of Arkansas but left before receiving a degree to join the family business: a poultry growing and shipping operation.
He started at the bottom, hatching and catching chickens, then driving delivery trucks to markets in Chicago and Kansas City. In 1958, he and his father opened the company's first poultry processing center in Springdale, where he served as plant manager. He became president of the company in 1961, a year before his father died in a car wreck.
His leadership style resulted in a unique culture, where executives wear khaki uniforms — with their names stitched onto the shirts — and never close their office doors. In the 1990s, while his company was facing more stringent federal food safety inspection standards, he was accused of providing illegal gifts, such as airplane travel and football tickets to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy. The company pleaded guilty to charges of presenting $12,000 in illegal gifts and ultimately paid a $6 million fine.
During his tenure, he would take the company, from its beginnings as a regional player, to becoming, at his death in 1991, one of the world's largest manufacturing companies — with annual sales of more than $10 billion dollars and more than 100,000 employees worldwide.
Who was this notable Arkansas poultry producer, a pioneer of modern Arkansas economic history, who became one of the richest people in the world?
Answer on NOTABLE ARKANSANS—Answer
Style on 05/17/2020