Biography of Charles A. Cannon
Mr. Charles A. Cannon, one of North Carolina's most noted industrialists, created The Cannon Foundation in 1943. It is one of four charitable organizations established by the late Mr. Cannon. Of the four, The Cannon Foundation, Inc. is the only general purpose foundation which accepts unsolicited requests for grants; the three others are charitable trusts that can make grants only to specifically named beneficiaries.
Mr. Cannon was born in Concord, North Carolina, in 1892. The youngest of ten children, he attended Concord City Schools, Fishburne Military Academy, and Davidson College. He also received honorary doctorates from Presbyterian College, North Carolina State University, and Duke University.
In 1911, after one year at Davidson, he entered his father's textile business. The following year, he married the late Ruth Louise Coltrane. The couple had four children-the late William C. Cannon, the late Mariam Cannon Hayes, the late Charles A. Cannon, Jr., and the late Mary Ruth Cannon Spencer.
Cannon assumed his first executive job at the age of 19, when he was made manager of Barringer Manufacturing Company in Rockwell, NC. In 1913, he was made secretary and treasurer of the company. In 1916, he was elected vice president of Cannon Manufacturing Company in Kannapolis, and succeeded to the presidency in 1921.
He consolidated the multiple Cannon manufacturing plants and companies into a single corporate entity - The Cannon Mills Company. Cannon Mills made history when it launched the world's first large-scale consumer advertising sales campaign for the household textile industry, and introduced color and other promotional innovations into the textile industry.
Mr. Cannon retired as president of Cannon Mills in 1962, but continued as Chairman of the Board, spending part of each workday in his office up until the day before his death on April 2, 1971. Active in his industry, he was elected chairman of the Board of Governors of the American Cotton Manufacturers Association and served in this capacity during the critical period immediately following World War II. As the Cannon Mills Company grew to almost 25,000 employees, he also served as chairman of the Special Cotton Committee of the American Cotton Manufacturers Institute and was president of the NC Cotton Manufacturers Association.
Even more involved in his community, he served as chairman of the Board of the Cabarrus Bank & Trust Company; director of the Federal Reserve branch in Charlotte; director of New York Life Insurance Company, trustee at Duke University, Davidson College and the University of North Carolina; and member of the NC Highway Commission, State Parks Commission, and Public Works Commission.
He was presented the NC Citizens Association Distinguished Service Award in 1962, named both the Kannapolis and Concord "Man of the Year," and was honored with an "Appreciation Day" by the citizens of Kannapolis in 1967. In 1948, he was selected by the American Hospital Association as one of 50 persons in the nation who had made outstanding contributions to health care and hospitals. During the Great Depression, Mr. Cannon personally persuaded the financial leaders in New York City not to declare the state of North Carolina bankrupt. The state met its obligations as he assured them it would.
He is perhaps best remembered, however, for his interest in the welfare of people in his community. In 1917, years before industrial medicine or nursing had become widespread, he convinced his father to employ a nurse to safeguard the company's workers. He also made available to all employees of Cannon Mills Company and to the children of Cabarrus County, 100,000 free polio shots as soon as the vaccine was available, 65,000 doses of Asian flu vaccine, and 40,000 of tetanus toxoid.
Other than his family and the Cannon Mills Company, Mr. Cannon's great love was the Cabarrus Memorial Hospital, which he founded, and where he served as chairman of the Board of Trustees for more than 30 years. He also served on the NC Medical Care Commission and the NC Tuberculosis Sanatorium Commission.