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Community mourns loss of entrepreneur Sanders

Entrepreneur and business man Wiley C. Sanders Jr. passed away on Wednesday. He was 78.

Sanders was the founder of Wiley Sanders Truck Lines Inc. and Sanders Lead Company, as well as the co-owner of KW Plastics, KW Plastics Recycling Division and KW Container.

“I don’t know of anyone in the modern era who has had a more positive impact on the Troy and Pike County communities than Wiley Sanders,” said Troy Mayor Jason Reeves.  “And not just through the employment of thousands of people over the years but through his giving spirit.”

Reeves said Sanders did so many things for so many that no one ever knew about.

“That was just Wiley’s way,” Reeves said. “He gave to the community through the schools and organizations. He gave through churches and hospitals. He never wanted any recognition. He just did what he did.”

Reeves said there is no way to know the full impact of Sanders’ contributions.

“There is no way to ever categorize what this man has meant to the community,” he said. “And, there is no way to categorize the loss.

“Troy would look completely different today if it had not been for Wiley Sanders. And, I’ll say again, not just because of the businesses he created. His success encouraged others to take a chance on Troy.

“Wiley Sanders’ success showed that Troy was a place where you could be successful in business.”

Sanders, a Pike County native,  started at age 18 with one truck in 1959.  That truck grew into a fleet of over 500 trucks and 650 employees that make up Wiley Sanders Truck Lines today. As one of the nation’s leading common and contract motor carriers operating in 48 states, Canada and Mexico, the Wiley Sanders name on those red striped semi-trailers and trucks are recognizable from coast to coast. 

In 1981, Sanders and partner Kenny Campbell established KW Plastics to recycle spent automotive batteries. A second facility, KW Plastics of California was opened in Bakersfield, CA in 1986. After enjoying success in recycled polypropylene, Sanders and Campbell opened a new recycling facility, KW Plastics Recycling Division, in 1993 to recycle postconsumer HDPE. Collectively, these KW Companies are considered the world’s largest plastics recycler and recognized worldwide for their record capacities, innovation and leadership in the plastics recycling and resin supply industries. KW Container, the latest KW company, was started in 1998 to injection mold all plastic containers for the paint and coatings industry. The unique relationship from trucking to recycling, resin supply and packaging allow the Sanders / KW companies to offer significant investment in research & development, quality control and premium customer service 

Combined, the Sanders/KW companies provide almost 1,500 jobs.

Reeves said Sanders’ willingness to do business in Troy demonstrated his confidence in the work ethic of the people in this area.

“That, too, made Troy an attractive place to do business,” Reeves said. “The death of Wiley Sanders is a tremendous loss. I don’t know of anyone who has had a greater impact on the community, business and otherwise than Wiley Sanders.”

Community leaders said Sanders is considered one of the great entrepreneurs in Alabama.

“Wiley Sanders was a great friend of Troy University, as well as one of Alabama’s most successful entrepreneurs,” said Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr., chancellor of Troy University. “He was known throughout the nation for his business acumen, but his commitment to his community was equally admirable. His influence will exist well beyond his passing.”

Reeves said when Sanders entered the business world in 1959, little could he or anyone else have known his business venture would be impacting the Troy and Pike County in such a tremendous and positive way 60 years later.

“The impact that Wiley Sanders had on this community will be felt for generations to come,” Reeves said. “And I’m confident his legacy will be carried on by his family and his organizations.”

Visitation will be from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Green Hills Funeral Home in Troy. A memorial service will begin at noon.