James Spencer Love (July 6, 1896 - Jan. 20, 1962)
Founder of Burlington Industries, J. Spencer Love would build the largest textile manufacturing firm in the world. His vision helped propel the textile industry, while his philanthropy promoted education.
on July 6, 1896, in Cambridge, MA, James Spencer was the son of a
professor of mathematics at the Lawrence School of Science and director of
the summer school at Harvard University.
His father was born in Gastonia, NC, the son of a textile manufacturers Robert Calvin Grier Love (1840 - 1907), who co-owned the Gastonia Cotton Manufacturing Company established in Dec. 12, 1887.
Spencer graduated from Harvard University in three years, followed by a year at the Harvard Business School.
He joined the U.S. Army in 1917, rising to the rank of major before leaving the service in 1919 with $3,000 in savings.
He moved to Gastonia and went to work at the struggling Gastonia Cotton Manufacturing Company, owned by relatives Edgar, Robert A. and W. Thomas Love.
Seven months later, Spencer and his parents, James Lee and Cornelia Spencer Love, bought the company with their savings and credit. James L. became president, while Spencer was put in charge of operations as secretary-treasurer. The mill had out-dated equipment which seriously limited production.
Looking for new funding, Spencer Love found backers in Burlington, NC a $250,000 loan underwritten by the Burlington Chamber of Commerce. So in 1923, he liquidated the company, selling the buildings and moving the machinery to the Burlington Mills Corporation, which opened a new small mill in 1924 with 200 employees.
During this time Spencer had been experimenting with artificial silk first produced commercially in 1910. When existing cotton products were not selling well, Spencer turned to artificial silk newly named rayon in 1924 and began making bedspreads.
Success began to come for the new material. In 1926, Love opened his second mill, and by 1929, Burlington Mills had a New York sales office.
Spencer continued to expand Burlington Mills, even during the Great Depression. By 1937, Burlington Mills had 22 plants and annual sales of $25 million. That year, Burlington Mills Corporation was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
In World War II, he was the director for the Textile Clothing and Leather Board of the War Production Board.
In recognition of their diversified operations, Burlington Mills Corporation changed its name to Burlington Industries in 1955. There were 17 companies in the conglomerate making ribbons, hosiery, carpets, fabrics and more.
When Spencer Love died, Burlington Industries was the world's largest textile company, 48th largest U.S. corporation with annual sales of $913 million, $607 million in assets and 62,000 employees working in 18 states and 7 foreign countries.
Among many firsts, Burlington was the first textile company to advertise on national network television (1952).
Spencer Love also created the Burlington Industries Foundation and the James Lee Love Educational Loan Fund, which supported many educational institutions and students.
He served as the director or trustee to numerous companies and organizations, including: Economic Club of New York, National Safety Foundation, North Carolina National Bank, New York Trust Company, and the University of North Carolina. He received numerous honorary degrees.