I love cotton. I come from three generations of cotton folks, but not on the farming side. Both sets of my grandparents worked in central Alabama cotton mills — Avondale Mills to be exact. My father’s parents worked in the Pell City mill, and my mother’s parents worked in the Sylacauga mill.
The tradition of working in cotton mills continued with my father. He worked for Avondale Mills from the time he was 12 years old until he retired in the late ’90s. He worked in many areas of the mill from the carding room to the weave room. He eventually worked his way to classing cotton and then to buying cotton.
So although I didn’t grow up on a cotton farm, my roots in cotton run deep. I worked for Avondale Mills when I was in high school and during the summers while I attended college. My first job was in Avondale’s Catherine mill, running the carding machines. I also worked in the cotton warehouse unloading bales from trucks and rail cars and weighing them. After attending college for a while and not knowing what I wanted to do, my dad suggested I try working in the cotton business.
In December 1972, I went to work in Selma, Alabama, with Hohenberg Brothers, a large cotton merchant known today as Cargill. I worked for a cotton classer and would check in samples, raise them up for classing and put them in trays as the classer would grade them.
In 1976, I went to work for Loeb & Co., a cotton merchant in Montgomery, Alabama. It was then that Mr. Loeb sent me to Murdoch’s International Classing School in Memphis, Tennessee. I learned how to not only grade cotton but to pull staple as well. After I returned, Mr. Loeb had me call on the cotton mills in Alabama and Georgia.
In 1977, I married my wife, Becky, whose father also worked for Avondale Mills in fabric testing and development. In the early ’80s, I went to work with Rome Manufacturing in Rome, Georgia, buying and classing cotton. In the late ’80s, I moved to Centre in Cherokee County, Alabama, and went to work for a small merchant out of Memphis — Robert L. Weaver Cotton. I bought and sold cotton for them, and Becky worked in the cotton warehouse office.
Becky and I tried our hand at running our own cotton company with my sister and her husband and moved to Goldsboro, North Carolina, for a year. Too many sleepless nights led us back to Centre in 1991, and I began working for Billy Dunavant at Dunavant Enterprises. I worked for him for 17 years buying and selling cotton. Becky went back to work at Plaza Warehouse, and also invoiced the cotton I bought for Dunavant. There were a few times that Becky, my three kids, and I would work long hours at the cotton warehouse pulling loads of cotton for shipment in lay downs for cotton mills.
In November 2008, I started working for the Cotton Board as their Southeast Regional Communications Manager (RCM). My territory includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. My biggest thrill as a Cotton Board RCM is giving producers the opportunity to see their ag promotion dollars at work inside Cotton Incorporated’s World Headquarters and Research Facility in Cary, North Carolina, through our producer tour program. I also participate in events that take decision makers from mills, brands and retailers on farm tours to see how cotton is produced.
Cotton truly is the fabric of my life. Working in the cotton industry has provided a wonderful life for me and all my family. I am thankful for the friends and connections I’ve made from cotton. I’ve seen the industry change so much through all my years, and I’m excited about cotton’s future.
– Monty Bain
Southeast Regional Communications Manager