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McColl School launches new Carolinas Entrepreneur Hall of Fame

Six business leaders whose legacy still shapes the Carolinas will be honored as founding members

07/19/10 -  

The McColl School of Business at Queens University of Charlotte proudly announces the creation of the Carolinas Entrepreneur Hall of Fame.  

Six founding members from a variety of industries will be celebrated posthumously at an October event along with a first class of living inductees (to be announced in August). Honorees represent major business sectors and will be recognized for the scope of their impact on the region's economy and their community service and civic engagement.  

The first class of honorees are: William Henry Belk; James Edgar Broyhill; Thomas H. Davis; James Buchanan "J.B." Duke; Richard Joshua "R.J." Reynolds; and Leroy Springs.

"For 30 years, the McColl School of Business has been dedicated to serving individuals who strive to become highly competent leaders who understand the importance of character and are committed to shaping their communities," said McColl School Dean Terry Broderick. "The lasting contributions of these founding inductees reflect the impact that those values can have over time."  

Hall of Fame inductees are selected by a panel of judges representing North Carolina and South Carolina. This year's judges are: Former N.C. Gov. Jim Martin; Fritz Hamer, chief curator at the S.C. Museum of History; Tom Hanchett, staff historian at the Levine Museum of the New South; Louis Foreman, founder and chief executive of Enventys; Dr. Jordan Lipton, a founder of Signature Healthcare in Charlotte, N.C.; Melissa McGuire, co-founder and director of Sherpa LLC; Joan H. Zimmerman, founder of Southern Shows Inc.; and from the McColl School, Dean Terry Broderick and Chuck Bamford, professor and Dennis Thompson Chair of Entrepreneurial Leadership.  

The new Carolinas Entrepreneur Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Entrepreneurial Leadership Circle (ELC), which was formed more than 20 years ago to support entrepreneurial efforts at Queens University of Charlotte.  Membership is by invitation, and ELC members are established entrepreneurs in the Carolinas. Queens also offers an undergraduate minor in entrepreneurship for all majors as well as a graduate minor in entrepreneurship through the McColl School of Business.  

"Every major company in existence was started by an entrepreneur or a small team of entrepreneurs," said Bamford. "Entrepreneurs are the engine that drives a region to success. We are truly honored to host the Carolinas Entrepreneur Hall of Fame."  

A ceremony celebrating this year's honorees will be on Oct. 7 during the Annual ELC Dinner at the Quail Hollow Country Club. (The first living class will be in attendance along with family members of the posthumous inductees.)

(Biographies were culled from "The North Carolina Century: Tar Heels Who Made a Difference, 1900-2000," by Howard E. Covington, Jr. and Marion A. Ellis; "The Legacy," by Louise Pettus; and from the Duke University Library Archives.)   


William Henry Belk redefined the idea of retail. He was born in 1862 and died in 1952. He started in business in Monroe, N.C. in 1888, leasing a 22-by-70-foot space. More than a century later, the small brick store has turned into a family-run business with more than 200 fashion department stores in 13 states. Belk has become one of the largest privately-owned retail firms in the nation. Very few families can live up to the standards that the Belk family has set in retail.  

Belk had a dream of being a merchant from a very early age. He challenged the system of retail throughout the South with non-negotiable prices as well as a cash-only exchange. This went so well that he profited the first year, and his brother John came to work with him. A year later a store was opened in Union, S.C., then another in Charlotte, N.C. Many of those whom William hired were off the farm and were gradually promoted in the ranks in the Belk stores. This led to them beginning their own stores with the Belk name, and the stores started expanding rapidly.  

From the beginning, Belk seemed to know exactly what he was doing. His idea of expansion with several different stores under the Belk name with different management paid off early on. The flagship store was eventually established at the Southpark shopping center in Charlotte, N.C.  

William Henry Belk was and still is one of the original entrepreneurs in retail in the Carolinas, as well as much of the surrounding region.     


In 1892, James Edgar Broyhill was born as the seventh of nine children. From an early age he knew that the family's farming business was not for him. He attended the Appalachian Training School for Teachers, but before completing his degree he was drafted into the military during World War I.  

Upon his return, he went to work with his brother, Thomas. James Edgar Broyhill changed the furniture industry in Western North Carolina and the surrounding area substantially. Together with his brother he started Broyhill Furniture Industries and eventually grew the business to an international level. The company, based in Lenoir, N.C., started with a unique approach to design and James Edgar Broyhill eventually began producing suites of furniture such as the seven-piece bedroom set.  

In 1926 he went out on his own and started the Lenoir Chair Company. His brother was forced to retire due to a health condition in 1937, and the furniture company was handed down to James Edgar Broyhill. Over time he purchased six failing factories and made them profitable again.  

His great desire was to make North Carolina known for a thriving furniture industry, and he was indeed successful.      


Thomas H. Davis, born in Winston-Salem in 1918, greatly shaped transportation across the Carolinas. He was president and founder of Piedmont Airlines based out of Winston-Salem, N.C., and brought on a new kind of business for airlines. The company's focus on customer service and employee satisfaction left a different impression upon people than its competitors.  

Davis was interested in planes from a young age. The young boy's hero, Charles Lindbergh, was particularly inspiring throughout his adolescent years. He eventually earned his pilot's license, which led him back to Winston-Salem where he worked a summer job selling planes for Camel City Flying Service. At the time, Camel City was having financial issues that led to Davis's father to buy out much of the company and become its leading stockholder. Camel City Flying turned into Piedmont Aviation and became a profitable company in less than five years.  

During World War II, when pilot training was limited to military personnel, Piedmont Aviation had to pick up a new kind of business and became a passenger airline. In 1947, there was a route for passengers, mail and freight going from the Carolinas region to Virginia, and to the Ohio Valley. Davis and Piedmont Aviation decided to become a publicly traded company to fund the new passenger airline, and every share was sold throughout the Carolinas region.  

Many routes were acquired over time, leading passenger airlines to become a major part of people's lives, and a multi-million dollar industry starting in the mid-1960s. Thomas H. Davis was greatly respected by his peers, as he revolutionized airline transportation in the South making it faster and more convenient.    


James Buchanan Duke was born in 1856 into a family that owned a tobacco company. He attended schools including the New Garden School in Greensboro, N.C. (now Guilford College) and the Eastman Business College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.  

His primary education, however, was in the family's business -- first farming, then the hand manufacture and "drumming" (marketing) of tobacco products. Finally, he worked on the mass production and mass marketing of cigarettes.  

At age 28, "Buck" opened a branch of the family's factory in New York City, which within five years was furnishing half the country's total production of cigarettes. Duke emerged as the president of the American Tobacco Company, which within a decade became a multinational corporation.  

His older brother, Benjamin Newton, launched the family into the textile business and they soon identified a need for economical water power which led the Dukes into the hydroelectric generating business. In 1905, they founded the Southern Power Company, later known as Duke Power, which is still today one of the companies making up Duke Energy, Inc. They soon were supplying electricity to more than 300 cotton mills and various other factories, electric lines, and cities and towns.  

Life-long Methodists, the brothers practiced the kind of financial stewardship encouraged by their church and instilled in them by their father. In December 1924, "Buck" established The Duke Endowment as a permanent trust fund with designated beneficiaries.  

Duke limited his philanthropy to the areas served by the power company. In addition to Duke University, he designated annual income to be distributed to non-profit hospitals and child care institutions for all races in the Carolinas, to rural Methodist churches and retired Methodist preachers in North Carolina, and to three other institutions of higher education: Furman University (Greenville, S.C.), Johnson C. Smith University (Charlotte, N.C.), and Davidson College (Davidson, N.C.)  

One of the largest foundations in the United States, the Duke Endowment, with offices in Charlotte, North Carolina, has now distributed more than $1 billion to its beneficiaries.  

Duke made a huge impact in the Carolinas region with his huge investment in energy, but also in bettering education.      


Born in 1850, Richard Joshua (R.J.) Reynolds was born into a wealthy family in Virginia and grew up around tobacco.  

He eventually started his first business in what is now Winston-Salem, N.C., choosing the location because of its proximity to a railroad hub. He sold 150,000 pounds of tobacco during his first year. As he grew the business it influenced much of the city's social and political structure. Reynolds built a school, places for entertainment including an opera house and a YMCA. Other civic involvement included endowments to Guilford College and Slater Industrial School, which later became Winston-Salem State University.  

Reynolds changed the tobacco industry around 1913 when he started producing pre-packaged cigarettes, freeing customers from having to roll their own.  

Over time, he bought out other tobacco companies and gained 121 different buildings throughout Winston-Salem.

Reynolds and "J.B." Duke were major competitors in the tobacco market, as Duke had much of the monopoly over the industry. As Duke moved into the power business, Reynolds became the king of tobacco, and his company became one of the leading manufacturers in the South, forever changing the face of agriculture in the Carolinas.    


Leroy Springs was a true pioneer in textiles in the Carolinas as he helped shape the cotton industry into what it is today.  

Born  in 1861 on Springfield Plantation - two miles north of Fort Mill, S.C. - Springs spent most of his young life working the farm crops and doing farm chores before and after school and throughout the summers. Growing up on a plantation and learning the importance of being industrious proved to be key to his eventual success.  

Springs' life as an entrepreneur began in 1884 at the age of 22, when he established Leroy Springs & Company, a wholesale dealer of groceries, provisions, staple hardware, fertilizers and shoes. His knowledge of cotton acquired on the plantation, and his instinctive love for a business gamble, eventually led him into another enterprise - financing cotton farmers on the crop-lien system.  

In 1886, Springs introduced the new Leroy Springs & Company, this time focusing on cotton export and shipping, with offices in seven Carolinas cities and towns. Eventually he became the largest cotton shipper in the Southeast, and at one point, was the largest cotton shipper in the world into the port of Liverpool, England.  

Over the next decade, he was involved as a partner or sole owner in nine different businesses, including: Heath, Springs & Company; Springs & Shannon in Camden; Kershaw Mercantile and Banking Company in Kershaw; Heath Springs Banking and Mercantile Company in Heath Springs; and Atlantic Cotton Compress Company in Columbia.        

His legacy is carried on by what is now known as Springs Global, and the qualities he bequeathed still live within the company's corporate culture today.     

Queens University of Charlotte is a private, co-ed, Presbyterian-affiliated comprehensive university with a commitment to both liberal arts and professional studies. Located in the heart of historic Charlotte, Queens serves approximately 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students through its College of Arts and Sciences, the McColl School of Business, the Wayland H. Cato, Jr. School of Education, the School of Communication, Hayworth College for Adult Studies and the Andrew Blair College of Health which features the Presbyterian School of Nursing.   

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