a billionaire whose Milliken & Company was based in Spartanburg and was one of the largest textile and chemical firms in the nation, manufactured materials used in products as varied as flame-resistant gear for firefighters and the balloons in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. One of his products gives Jell-O pudding its smooth creaminess.
He was a generous supporter of conservative Republicans and an early backer of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 run for president.
He maintained close ties with a generation of conservative Republican senators who for decades dominated Southern politics, including Jesse Helms of North Carolina and South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond, whom Mr. Milliken is sometimes credited with helping to persuade to switch from the Democratic to the Republican Party in 1964.
Mr. Milliken was a Republican delegate to eight national conventions, most recently in 1984. In 2008, he supported Duncan L. Hunter, a California congressman, for the Republican presidential nomination.
Mr. Milliken, who was born in New York City on Oct. 24, 1915, took over the family’s textile business in 1947 after the death of his father, Gerrish. The company was co-founded by his grandfather Seth Milliken in 1865.
Mr. Milliken studied French history at Yale University and was known for quoting economic theorists like Adam Smith and Friedrich List, and for warning about what he regarded as the link between nations that allowed their manufacturing bases to decline and the demise of those nations.
Mr. Milliken’s wife of 55 years, Justine Van Rensselaer Hooper, died in 2003. He is survived by two daughters, Justine Russell and Nancy Milliken; three sons, Roger Jr., David and Weston; and nine grandchildren.more » « less