June 20, 2018
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Textile fortune heir dies at age 95

By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

MOUNT DESERT, Maine — A seasonal Mount Desert Island resident and heir to a textile fortune that got its start in Maine 146 years ago, has died.

Roger Milliken, chairman of Milliken & Co., was listed in 2007 by Forbes magazine among the 400 richest Americans and in 2008 was estimated by Forbes to have a personal fortune of $1 billion.

He died Dec. 30 in Spartanburg, S.C., at the age of 95.

Milliken was a longtime seasonal South Shore Road resident of the village of Northeast Harbor, where his younger brother Gerrish Milliken Jr. also owns a home. He was known to have helped financially support MDI institutions such as College of the Atlantic, Friends of Acadia, Island Housing Trust, Mount Desert Island Hospital, Northeast Harbor Library and others.

“At the family’s summer home in Northeast Harbor, Maine, he, for years, climbed mountains daily, raced sailboats twice a week, and participated in competitive card and board games, as well as games of croquet and ping-pong,” a biography of Milliken posted on the Milliken & Co. website indicates.

Milliken was the grandson of Milliken & Co. co-founder Seth Milliken, who started the company with William Deering in Portland in 1865, according to information on the company’s website. After Deering left the partnership, Seth Milliken moved the company’s headquarters to New York City in 1868.

Roger Milliken was born in New York City and graduated from Yale in 1937. In the early 1940s he oversaw three of the company’s woolen mills in Maine and became president of the company upon his father’s death in 1947. He moved with his family from New York City to Spartanburg in 1954, according to a biography on the Milliken & Co. website.

During his more than six decades as leader of Milliken & Co., Milliken expanded his family’s business from a handful of plants to a firm with 9,000 employees and 50 manufacturing facilities in seven countries. During that time, Milliken expanded the privately owned company into the industrial products and specialty chemical industries. He stepped away from day-to-day management of the company in 2005 but remained chairman of the board.

A longtime supporter of the Republican Party, especially in South Carolina, Milliken is credited with helping to popularize manufacturing industry practices such as bar coding, rapid response standards, supplier recognition, and others. He also was known to support various educational institutions and tree planting efforts aimed at protecting the environment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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