Charles A. Cannon, An Extraordinary Man

Charles A. Cannon was a man of many facets. A humanitarian and world-renowned industrialist, he strongly believed in the benefits that free enterprise conferred upon society. He knew that a life well lived was a life that benefited employees and co-workers, peers, the local community and the nation at large. These attributes were the reason for his success.


The Early Life

Mr. Cannon was born in Concord, North Carolina in 1892, the youngest son of 11 children of James and Mary Ella Cannon.

After attending Concord City Schools, graduating from Fishburne Military School, and studying at Davidson College, he entered his father’s business. Already showing executive potential, in 1911 at age 19, he became manager of Barringer Manufacturing Company in Rockwell, NC.

In 1912, Mr. Cannon married Ruth Louise Coltrane. They had four children: William, Mariam, Charles, Jr., and Mary Ruth.

The Building of Cannon Mills

In 1916, Mr. Cannon was elected Vice President of the Cannon Manufacturing Company. Upon the death of his father in 1921, he succeeded to the presidency before his 30th birthday. During the 1920s, Mr. Cannon merged nine separate companies to form Cannon Mills Company. By the mid-1940’s he had built the world’s largest household textile manufacturer, producing some 300,000 towels bearing the familiar Cannon brand each day. 


Great Depression Brings Innovation

Showing his skill for marketing, Mr. Cannon launched the first large-scale advertising campaign for the household textile industry. His innovations extended to his product line, too, with the introduction of colored fabrics and prints. These products brought life and joy to homes and homemakers during the years of the Great Depression.

His word also commanded respect. As a personal emissary to the financial community in New York City during the Great Depression, Mr. Cannon convinced North Carolina’s creditors not to declare the state bankrupt. Both he and the state of North Carolina proved as good as their word.

During World War II, Cannon Mills supplied much-needed textiles to our troops. It was during this time Mr. Cannon created The Cannon Foundation in 1943.


From Success to Significance

With his stature in the textile industry already assured, Mr. Cannon was elected chairman of the Board of Governors of the American Cotton Manufacturers Association, in which capacity he served during the postwar years. He also served on the Special Cotton Committee of the American Cotton Manufacturers Institute and became President of the North Carolina Cotton Manufacturers Association as well as serving on the Board of Directors for New York Life Insurance Company.

Despite his expanding professional duties, Mr. Cannon deepened his commitment to his community, region, and state. He became Chairman of the Board of the Cabarrus Bank and Trust Company; Director of the Federal Reserve in Charlotte; a trustee at Davidson College, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina; and a member of the N.C. Highway Commission, the State Parks Commission and the Public Works Commission.

Although Mr. Cannon relinquished the title of President in 1962, he continued as Chairman of the Board and spent at least part of each day at his office. That same year he was awarded the N.C. Citizens’ Distinguished Service Award. He was also named “Man of the Year” in both Concord and Kannapolis. He was honored with an Appreciation Day by the citizens of Kannapolis in 1967.

Mr. Cannon built a remarkable record of personal philanthropy which the Cannon Charitable Interests continue today.



Copyright 2018 The Cannon Foundation, Inc.