James Pollard honored as Grand Marshal of Indepence Day Parade

Published 3:00 am Thursday, June 25, 2015

James Pollard, who managed both and glove and shirt factories during the hey-days of the textile industry in Brundidge, will be honored as the Grand Marshal of the Brundidge Business Association’s Independence Day Parade in Brundidge Saturday.

Dixie Shehane, BBA president, said Pollard was the unanimous choice for the honor because of his longtime contributions to the growth and prosperity of Brundidge.

“Mr. Pollard was the mainstay in the Brundidge textile industry for 33 years,” Shehane said. “He came to Brundidge to manage the Reigel Glove Factory and, when it closed about 10 years later, he was the choice to manage the Fruit the Loom shirt factory. Those factories provided a workplace for many women and men who wanted to work.”

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Pollard said he is honored to be the grand marshal of a parade in the place he now calls home. But he, laughingly, remembered what he said when he was offered the opportunity to come to Brundidge in 1954 to manage the glove factory.

“No, sir,” Pollard said. “That’s what I told them when they asked me if wanted the job. No, sir. I didn’t want to leave Pigeon Creek.”

The little community of Pigeon Creek is on bottom corner of Butler County, and it’s not much more than a wide space in the road. But, James and Ira Mae Pollard called it home, and they were content to be there.

But, Pollard was approached again and again about the opportunity to manage the factory in Brundidge.

“The fourth time, I was little more receptive,” he said.

The Pollards moved to Brundidge where he managed a glove factory that initially had 28 employees.

“They had to learn to sew gloves, and gloves are one of the toughest items to sew,” he said. “Some of them learned and some didn’t. As we added employees, they had to learn to sew and to work. Some of them thought they could stay out of work just to go see Aunt Minnie. One man said he couldn’t work on Saturdays because he liked to watch the cartoons. But they learned to work. We had good employees and a good working relationships.”

Pollard established himself in the community. He was invited to join the Lions Club, named an active deacon at Salem Baptist Church, appointed to the city’s zoning commission and to the board of directors at the Brundidge Banking Company.

All the while the glove factory was growing and meeting the demands for its products.

When the glove factory closed in October of 1962, it seemed like the end of the world for the employees.

“Most of them lived within 25 miles of Brundidge, so the closing affected a lot of families that were friends and neighbors,” Pollard said.

During those dark times, Pollard said Robert Godwin made contact with Everett Moore in Fayette, Tenn. and encouraged him to open a shirt factory in the vacant plant.

“Mr. Moore said he wasn’t interested, and he came to Brundidge to let Robert know for certain that he was not interested,” Pollard said. “Harold Walker and Albert Hastey met with Mr. Moore and Robert, and then Mr. Moore came and talked with me. None of us had any idea he would ever consider opening a shirt factory here but he did, and people went back to work in just a few months.”

Pollard said most day were normal workdays. Only one time did he remember a fight between two workers.

”I fired them both but later hired back the one who was not guilty in what happened,” he said. “Back in 1963, someone called and said they were going to blow up the factory. We had about 700 employees in the plant. I talked with Chief Joe Wallace and decided there was no one who would do anything like that. Our employees were too loyal.”

Pollard had served Uncle Sam in three wars, in Africa, Sicily and Italy, and he had faced danger but never had he been more nervous than he was knowing that so many lives could depend on his making the right call.

Under Pollard’s management, the shirt factory transitioned from making men’s dress shirts, to knit shirts and then to girls’ and ladies’ panties.

It was then that Pollard turned in the keys to the factory that he picked up in Pigeon Creek 33 years earlier. He was honored by Fruit of the Loom and the City of Brundidge. He retired assured the move to Brundidge was the best move he could have made.

“It was the best thing we ever did,” he said. “This is home.”

On Saturday, the BBA will honor one of its own, Pollard, as the grand marshal of the 2015 Independence Day Parade. The honor is well deserved, Shehane said.