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I am grateful for Johnny Vardeman's article marking the passing of my former boss, Roger Milliken.
I did not really know Roger Milliken, although I worked for him for 41 years. I met him a few times and spent a few hours in meetings where he was present. I was always impressed by his attention to detail. An example of this was the time he stopped work on an addition to the New Holland Plant because he noticed that associates would have to walk through the canteen area to get to the restrooms.
Milliken and Co. was, at one time, this country's largest privately owned company. He opposed the idea of selling stock in the company because he viewed that as a means of borrowing money. Maybe this belief came from the fact that his family got into the textile manufacturing business to try to recoup money they had loaned to manufacturers. He always said if you don't have the cash, you can't afford to buy.
He also insisted we pay our bills on time, but only on the last day we could pay and still get a discount for early payment. Thankfully, he did not hold his associates to the same standard.
He was opposed to unions. He said the owners of a business were the only ones entitled to make life-or-death decisions for a business. He believed that automobile manufacturers' caving in to union demands for ever increasing wages and benefits by just increasing the cost of their automobiles would eventually lead to their failure.
He also was aware of the danger inherent in allowing government bodies to set exorbitant salaries and benefits for their people and themselves out of public view.
He was a staunch conservative and insisted all of his new management associates attend a weeklong class taught by an ultra-conservative libertarian who espoused the philosophy that "the best-governed people are the least-governed people."
Someone asked Mr. Milliken why he felt it was important to expose his people to these impracticable beliefs. His response was that his people were constantly being exposed to liberal thoughts that are just as extreme in the opposite direction. He hoped this one week's saturation would help them find the proper balance.
He was a brilliant, energetic and gracious man who prided himself on asking questions which would provoke a thoughtful answer. It was my pleasure to have been connected with him.