When management at Milliken’s Judson textile plant questioned who in the company had worked there longer than Easley’s Charles Crowe, the only name that came to mind was Roger Milliken.
Last week Crowe celebrated his 60th anniversary working at the plant in Greenville’s west end. It may have been a bit of a joke, comparing Crowe’s tenure to that of Milliken, the recently-deceased, well-admired, hard-working, forward-thinking Greenville textile executive, but not unrealistic by much.
Few people work for any company the length of time that Crowe has worked at the Judson Plant. In the declining years of the American textile industry, long tenure has become truly rare.
Crowe grew up in Pickens, attended Pickens High School and married Betty Swords of Liberty. They recently celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary. The longevity with his wife is the thing that brought tears to Crowe’s eyes and left him speechless for beat or two.
He was recognized Thursday morning prior to a regular safety meeting at the plant. Supervisors and co-workers from across the plant applauded him.
“He’s a good man,” volunteered a 30-something co-worker, as the crowd began to gather. “He’s a hard worker, dependable, shows up everyday. He’s a good man, and I like him.”
His current supervisor Greg Crooke, said the same and more. “I’ve known Charles for 18 years. He used to be my supervisor. I learned a lot from him. I still learn from him. You can’t replace that kind of experience.”
He started out in the Quiller room in a job that his uncle helped him find. “Back then you pretty much had to know somebody to get a job here.”
He was a doffer, moving spools of thread manually from on machine to another. “That is all done mechanically now,” he said. It is one of many functions of textile production that has been mechanized and computerized. “There are machines in the basement that you start up, turn out the lights and they run until they have to be switched over,” he said.
The company exists today because of management’s effectiveness in improving productivity, he said. “Mr. Milliken was good about bringing in the new equipment. It is why we are here today.”
Crowe has been able to accept the changes and learn from them as evidenced by his advancement into other departments and a period in management so that he now oversees maintenance of machines throughout the company.
Plant Manager Todd Daily also said that Crowe’s knowledge is a big asset. “He works behind the scenes , teaching others, and he always has a positive attitude,” Daily said.
Crowe’s explanation of his positive attitude is, “I like to come to work.” His shift starts at 6 a.m. I have a list and make rounds through the building. Everything is looking pretty good today. The company makes that easy. They are good about maintaining the equipment.”
How does he account for his ability to work 60 years in one place? “I am blessed,” he said.
His supervisor, Greg Crooke, said people around Crowe joked when he passed 55 years at the plant that he might go on to 60. Now that he claims 60 years, no one is discounting his ability to go 65 years.
Least of all Crowe. “If my health holds out, I may. I have no plans of retiring.”