W. Duke Kimbrell (Dec. 28, 1924 - )
Ranked as the second most influential textile executives in the 20th Century by Textile World Magazine, W. Duke Kimbrell led Parkdale Mills to becoming the world's largest spun yarn
during the second half of the century.
Headquartered in Gastonia, Parkdale Mill originally opened in 1916. By the time of the Great Depression, William Robinson had inherited the mill. One hot summer day, he was watching people rewire mill houses near the plant and a hard-working, 14-year-old who was climbing poles to help.
Named after Duke Power Company where his father worked as an electrician, teenaged Duke Kimbrell got a part-time job offer for after school work by Robinson. It was the start of a 60+ year career with Parkdale Mill.
Duke joined the Army Air Corps during World War II, participating in 18 missions over Europe. On his return, Duke continued his textile education and graduated from North Carolina State University, while working at Parkdale Mills on school breaks and holidays.
He joined Parkdale Mill full-time working in all phases of the operation. By 1961, he was named vice president. Parkdale Mill was a one-mill company with 200 employees producing slightly less than 15 million pounds of yarn for annual sales of $11.5 million.
In 1966, he was named president and chairman in 1967. By 1980, Parkdale Mills had expanded to six plants, 1,600 workers and $110 million in annual sales.
Today, Parkdale Mills has more than two dozen plants and is the largest manufacturer of spun yarn in the world with annual sales of nearly $1 billion.
Kimbrell has served as president of the American Yarn Spinners Association, as well as board director for the National Cotton Council and the American Textile Manufacturers Association.
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