The North Carolina Business History Project
When Myrtle Hayworth’s first husband died in 1929, she took up the reins of the family business. The Great Depression was a difficult time to enter the business world, but Hayworth piloted her family furniture company through the storm. By the 1970s, the Alma/Myrtle Desk Company, the Hayworth’s family business, had become the largest producer of office furniture in the world. Even after Myrtle Hayworth’s son Charles took the helm of the Myrtle Desk Company, he continued to consult his mother in weekly strategy meetings, recognizing the value of her business acumen. The Hayworth family story is just one of the many entrepreneurial narratives recorded through the North Carolina Business History project, dedicated to the task of collecting oral histories and archival materials from the state’s business leaders before foreign competition, globalization, vertical integration, mergers, and acquisitions permanently alter the face of North Carolina industry.
In tracing the evolution of North Carolina’s economy since World War II, the project examines both the transformation of the state’s traditional industries (agriculture, tobacco manufacturing, furniture, textiles, insurance) and the emergence of “new” industries (banking and financial services, high technology, agribusiness, utilities), situating specific histories within the context of the state’s wider economic transition. Among those who have been interviewed are Hugh L. McColl, Jr., CEO of Bank of America; Sen. Lauch Faircloth, owner of Faircloth Farms, Coharie Farms, and Coharie Mills; Ken Iverson, retired CEO of Nucor Corporation; Roger Gant, Jr., past president of Glen Raven Mills; Dennis Gillings, CEO of Quintiles Transnational Corp.; James Goodnight, President and CEO of SAS Institute; and James A. Graham, longtime North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture.