East Texas community shares memories of Pilgrim's Pride founder - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

East Texas community shares memories of Pilgrim's Pride founder

(Source: KLTV) (Source: KLTV)

An iconic figure in East Texas has passed away.

Lonnie 'Bo' Pilgrim, one of the founders of Pilgrim's Pride, died in Pittsburg on Friday.

His story was truly one of rags to riches.

A depression era child who once worked for 50 cents an hour went on to become a giant in the poultry industry.

We mostly remember him for his funny commercials for Pilgrim’s Pride. Bo Pilgrim started his business with his brother in 1946 in Pittsburg, and those who knew him say he never forgot his humble beginnings.

"He took that step with his brother in 1946, and it turned into a walk. He never lost that hometown country feel," says Pittsburg Mayor Shawn Kennington.

"It's a sad day for Pittsburg and Camp County. He was definitely a major employer for our area that we were grateful to have."
Pilgrim's became the second largest chicken producer in the world, even expanding to other countries.

He put thousands of people to work, and that fueled local businesses.
"He was very important to this community, he gave people a way to work and send their children to college," said downtown Pittsburg business owners Paul and Melinda Mayben. "Without him, a lot of people wouldn't have what they have or have been able to stay in this community. A very giving man, and a good friend."

Bo hated interviews. But granted KLTV a rare exclusive 9 years ago to talk about his success.
"We were so poor in the early days of the family that, that’s what has always driven me,"  Bo said in a February 2008 interview. " I worked twice as many hours, twice as hard, twice as many years, so that has to amount to something. But I always appreciate the little things."

He was a benefactor to many, always giving for the needs of his community.

"At Christmas, he would buy people food, he bought bicycles for kids," Melinda says.

And some say they'll remember Bo for who he really was.

"He's the poster child for anyone who if you have an inspiration and a dream you just have to work hard and you'll get there," Kennington says. " I think he'd want to be remembered as a good man, a Christian man."

Pilgrim's death was confirmed by Erman Smith funeral home in Pittsburg.

Funeral services are still pending.

Bo Pilgrim was 89 years old.
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