MEMPHIS – The late Duke Kimbrell, a nationally recognized North Carolina textile manufacturer and cotton industry leader, is the recipient of the 2014 Oscar Johnston Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was presented on February 8 at the National Cotton Council's (NCC) 2015 annual meeting here. Mr. Kimbrell's son-in-law, Andy Warlick, accepted the award.
The annual award, established in 1997, is named for Oscar Johnston, whose vision, genius and tireless efforts were foremost in the organization of and shaping of the NCC. The award is presented to an individual, now deceased, who served the cotton industry, through the NCC, over a significant period of his or her active business career. The award also recognizes those who exerted a positive influence on the industry and who demonstrated character and integrity as well as perseverance and maturation during that service.
Mr. Kimbrell, who was the chairman of Parkdale Mills, was ranked as the second most influential textile executive in the 20th century by Textile World magazine. He led Parkdale Mills to becoming the world's largest spun-yarn manufacturer during the second half of last century.
Starting at the mill as a part-time worker during his teenage years after his U.S. Army Air Corps service in World War II, Mr. Kimbrell rode his bicycle to work and swept floors and did other jobs all over the plant. He became a full-time employee in 1949 following graduation from North Carolina State University. By 1961, he was named Parkdale's vice president, five years later was named president, and in 1967, became chairman. In the 1960s, Parkdale opened its second plant in Gastonia and by 1992 was operating 18 U.S. yarn spinning plants. Today, Parkdale has 29 manufacturing plants in the United States, Central America, Mexico and South America.
Mr. Kimbrell made Parkdale the nation's first completely air conditioned mill in 1951 and pushed innovation well beyond that—introducing new and more efficient spinning methods.
In presenting the award, outgoing NCC Chairman Wally Darneille said Mr. Kimbrell also was known as a man of great integrity, as a man who valued his employees, and as a man who gave back very generously to his community. Through his generous contributions, Kimbrell "helped not only prominent public and private institutions, he also reached out to individuals and local organizations and foundations that help serve the needs of others," Darneille said. "It was clearly demonstrated over and again that Mr. Kimbrell was a staunch supporter of the community he loved."
Mr. Kimbrell also provided leadership and strong financial support to the NCC and other cotton organizations. At the NCC, he served continuously from 1984-2006 as either a vice president or Board member for the manufacturing segment and he was a Board advisor from 2007-2014. He was an active member on numerous NCC standing and special committees, including the Cotton Leadership Development Committee, which selected participants for the Cotton Leadership Program.
The honors and awards Mr. Kimbrell received were numerous and they include:the NCC's Harry S. Baker Distinguished Service Award in 1998, the Leader of the Year Award in 1991 by Textile World magazine, the American Textile Manufacturer's Institute's prestigious Samuel Slater Award, and North Carolina State University College of Textile's Distinguished Alumnus Award. In 2004, he was named to the American Textile Hall of Fame and he received an honorary doctorate from North Carolina State University in 2005.
The Oscar Johnston Lifetime Achievement Award recipient for 2012 was Jack Stone, a California cotton producer, industry leader and former NCC president. Other previous award recipients are: William Garrard, first general manager of Greenwood, Miss.-based Staplcotn Cooperative; Sykes Martin, a Courtland, Ala, producer; Walter Montgomery, Sr., a Spartanburg, S.C., textile manufacturer; William Rhea Blake, a former NCC executive vice president; Roger Malkin, long-time chairman and CEO of Delta and Pine Land Company, Scott, Miss; former NCC presidents, George C. Cortright, Jr., a Rolling Fork, Miss., producer; Jack Hamilton, a Lake Providence, La., producer/ginner/warehouseman; Lon Mann, a Marianna, Ark., ginner; Jack McDonald, Decatur, Ill., cottonseed crusher; Charles Youngker, a Buckeye, Ariz., producer; W.L. "Billy" Carter, Jr., who chaired the American Cotton Producers and served as NCC secretary-treasurer; and former NCC chairman James E. Echols, a Memphis, Tenn., merchant.