From his early days of hauling feed in a pickup, to a running a multi-billion dollar company, the largest chicken processing operation in the world, the story of Bo Pilgrim is a true rags to riches story. And it starts and ends in the small Camp County town of Pittsburg. In a very rare look, and exclusive opportunity, Bo Pilgrim granted an interview to KLTV 7.
He's the man with the funny hat, the dry sense of humor, best remembered for his comical commercials in the 80's and 90's.
"I'll never sell a fat yellow chicken" is what Bo says in many of his commercials.
"I've always had fun doing those commercials. It just becomes a part of me" says Bo.
Now, at 79 years old, the co-founder and chairman of the board still goes to work every day. Working out of an office at the Pittsburg Pilgrim's Pride plant, he can look outside and see a giant Bo Pilgrim's bust on top of a big gazebo, and underneath a bronze statue of his likeness with his trusty chicken by his side. And just a few miles down the road on highway 155 in Pittsburg, , his beautiful sprawling estate. He seems to have it all. But it didn't start out that way.
"We were so poor in the early days of the family that's what's always driven me. There were 7 of us kids, so 7 kids mother and daddy, 9 of us that had to go to the table to eat." Pilgrim says.
Born to a poor depression era East Texas family, Lonnie Bo Pilgrim had to work hard to turn a family feed store into an industry giant.
"I appreciate the little things, not just the big things. I've driven a truck and slept in ditches at night" he says.
He says, his drive to succeed, his work ethic, wasn't fueled by greed. In his autobiography he tells this story: at 6 years old he asked his dad for a coke. His father said yes, if he would sell six others. That lesson always stuck with him. In 1946, Bo and his brothers started a family feed store, delivering feed and selling baby chicks. Bo made 50 cents an hour.
"I worked twice many hours twice as hard twice as many years and all so that has to amount to something." Bo says.
Today, Pilgrims Pride is a fortune 500 company, employing over 55-thousand people, producing chicken for over 46-million customers each day, and eggs for 2-million each day. Pilgrims Pride does about 5 billion dollars in business every year, but that kind of success has not changed the kind of man Bo Pilgrim is. He's probably the richest man in East Texas, and he's given a lot back to the community, donating thousands to parks and hospital projects, even offering his private jet to those in emergency need in the community.
"It really belongs to God, we don't have anything , we're just trustees" says Bo.
So how does he start the day?
"I get up at 5 every morning I cook my own breakfast two eggs plus and chicken sausage." he says.
Does Bo like white meat or dark meat?
"Both!" he says.
Does Bo have problems balancing his checkbook?
"No I don't keep up with them" Pilgrim says.
And how about his trademark pilgrims hat. Does he wear it on his off-time?
"No I'd like to get rid of it from a personal standpoint." he says.
He's the undisputed king of the coop and, he says, his rise to the top, on the wings of chickens, has been something to crow about.