A Heart for People

Documentary on Cannon Mills Leader Screened at GWU


Gardner-Webb University and the Godbold School of Business Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship recently hosted a screening of “Charles A. Cannon: A Mind for Business, A Heart for People.” Appearing in the film is GWU Professor of History and Cannon Mills researcher, Dr. Tim Vanderburg.

In the audience of about 30 people were Cannon’s grandson, Robin Hayes, and GWU students, faculty, staff, administration and trustees. The documentary takes an in-depth look at the life of Cannon, a visionary whose leadership and philanthropy played out on a global stage. Produced and directed by GreyHawk Films with support from The Cannon Charitable Interests, the movie features family photographs, historical footage and recreated scenes of events in Cannon’s life. The story also includes observations from historians and interviews with mill workers and their families.

Vanderburg was selected to share insights from his book, “Cannon Mills and Kannapolis: Persistent Paternalism in a Textile Town.” During the film, he comments several times on various events in the history of the mills. The business began in 1887 under Charles’ father, James W. Cannon. Charles became the head of the company in 1921 and led the mills until his death in 1971.

“Charles Cannon was perhaps the last of the paternalist mill owners,” Vanderburg shared. “He provided work for thousands of southern workers and the wages were usually as high as unionized mills. Kannapolis was the model mill village and provided services to a degree that most mill villages did not. He left behind a legacy of philanthropy that is widespread throughout North Carolina. He gave to churches, colleges and universities, youth organizations, and community health care. His foundation now continues his philanthropic vision.”

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