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Poultry pioneer Bruce remembered for innovation, honesty
Late businessman helped industry grow in Northeast Georgia
Charles Alton Bruce

A poultry industry king and community pillar will be laid to rest this afternoon at First Baptist Church.

Charles Alton Bruce, 88, known to everyone as Alton, died Thursday.

"He's one of those names that you put in the category of pioneers who laid the foundation for the modern poultry industry, which is the one we're all enjoying and benefitting from today," said Mike Giles, president of the Georgia Poultry Federation.

In 1950, Bruce and his brother-in-law, Homer Wilson, started Bruce-Wilson Poultry.

This was followed by Hillside Hatchery, Orbit Egg Co. and B & W Hen Farms, according to Bruce's obituary. They later acquired HFC Feed Mill and Mar-Jac before founding Select Labs.

Georgia Poultry Federation President-Emeritus Abit Massey said Bruce was part of the growth of the poultry industry in Northeast Georgia.

"In the days before the industry was integrated with one company having the processing plant, feed mill, hatchery and whatever, they owned a hatchery and started growing chickens themselves," Massey said.

Massey said he enjoyed working with Bruce through the years.

"He was a fine gentleman," Massey said. "He was very, very innovative and active in the industry. Alton was a longtime member of our poultry leaders round table and was well-respected in the industry."

Bruce was born in Dawson County on Oct. 5, 1921. He attended Dawson County schools and the University of Georgia until he entered the Army in 1940. He was in the Military Police Corp. and was stationed in the Pacific Theater in World War II. He married his wife Bernice Grizzle in 1946.

Bruce was active in a number of community organizations including the Gainesville Elks Club, the Chattahoochee Country Club, the Etowah Masonic Lodge and the Gainesville Rotary Club, where he was a Paul Harris Fellow, according to his obituary.

He also was an active member of his church, First Baptist Church of Gainesville.

The Rev. Bill Coates, pastor at the church, said he will miss seeing Bruce at Sunday worship services.

"He made me smile every time I talked to him," Coates said.

"He was probably one of the truest people I've ever known. If he said something, you could count on it. He had a heart of gold."