College of Textiles NC State University
John Burgess “Beechie” Gaither Born Sept. 15, 1917 – Died Sept. 20, 2001
Years of Service NCSU 1950 – 1959
John Burgess Gaither was born to Edgar William Gaither and his wife, Margaret Sawyer Gaither, in Norfolk, VA. (1) He was educated in the public schools of Wilmington, NC and moved to Raleigh in 1929. He attended Millbrook Elementary School and graduated from Cary High School. He found odd jobs as an artist and paid his way through high school and college painting signs. His artistic ability was quite outstanding. In those days stores advertised by having the store front windows with messages painted on the inside of the glass. Since this was in the midst of the Great Depression, his father would not allow him to enroll solely in an art program. He entered the textile program at State in 1934 and soon made his mark as one of the most able cartoonists for college publications. He worked with Sigma Nu Fraternity, the Drum and Bugle Corps, The Wataugan and The Technician. Somewhere along here, he became a campus representative for BeechNut Chewing Gum and freely handed out sample boxes of their candycoated gum, hence the nickname “Beechie”. He graduated from NC State with a BS in Textile Manufacturing in 1938 with an emphasis on fabric design. (1, 2) He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the US Army Reserve. (4)
He went to work for Cone Export and Commission Co. (the official name for Cone Mills of Greensboro) in the technical department doing fabric testing, analysis and design in New York. He met and married Helen Frances Page, from Raleigh. After two years away from North Carolina, he was transferred to the Proximity Mill in Greensboro as a member of the technical staff. He was called into the US Army Quartermaster Corps in 1941 as WW II broke out. He went into service with the office of the Army Quartermaster General, Division of Procurement and Priorities. In Washington, he handled priorities for textile machinery during the reconversion period. He went on to become Purchasing and Contracting Officer and then an executive officer and cost analyst at the Army Depot in Somerville, New Jersey with German and Italian POWs as his work force. He rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel by the end of the war and was discharged in 1946. (1, 4)
After the war, he returned to Raleigh, joined the W.H. King Drug Co. in purchasing and sales promotion. In connection with the advertising work that he did, Gaither produced many radio spots to promote sales. His daughter Betty remembers that he drew the “Reddy Kilowatt” advertising in the garage behind the house on Blount Street. These signs appeared in the city buses. (3) As an outgrowth of his keen artistic ability, he soon became interested in screen printing. In conjunction with Professor Walter A. Thomason of the School of Textiles, he went into the business designing, printing and selling children’s Tshirts. This business flourished for about a year. (1, 4)
John B. Gaither teaching weaving design
His impression of the interview for the Textile Forum magazine
Gaither’s cartoons captured the occupations and thoughts of the day as seen in the Textile Forum
Eventually the combination of textiles, design and teaching grew and NC State made Gaither an offer to join the Weaving and Designing Department faculty in 1950. He taught sophomore designing and some freshman courses in weaving. Along with other faculty members, he was asked to join the team visiting the National School of Engineering in Lima, Peru in 1955 where they helped to establish a textile education program. He left NC State with the rank of Associate Professor.
When you joined the faculty, you were issued a Master Key. Gaither received this one in 1951 for the new wing of Nelson
Gaither joined other faculty members traveling to Lima in support of the Peru Project
A Sample Loom developed by John Gaither
He wrote or cowrote a book used in the School. Details unknown.
He left NC State in 1959 to start Creative Printworks, Inc., a manufacturing company of OEM graphic industrial parts, and served as President until he retired in 1986. (1, 2, 4)
He was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity at NC State and was the founder and Chairman of the Board of its Beta Tau Society in 1955. He was a charter member of the Sertoma Club of Raleigh where he served as president in 1956. He was a member of the North Carolina State University Alumni Assoc., where he served as Director from 1963 to 1964. He was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution where he served as State Vice President on 1966. He was a longtime supporter of the Boy Scouts of America, Occoneechee Council and served as a Boy Scout leader for many years. He was a charter member of White Memorial Presbyterian Church when Lynn Brown was Pastor and Polk Moffett was Associate Pastor. He taught the four year old Sunday school class for many years and was involved with the Adult Sunday School Class and Keenagers Club. He was a deacon, an Elder, and a Colony Care Leader for many years as well. He was a longtime member of the Carolina Country Club and the Stag Club of Raleigh. (4)
He was survived by his beloved wife, Helen Page Gaither, whom he married on July 6, 1940. Helen and Beechie had five children: Betty Gaither Halter of Houston, TX; Margaret Gaither Devore of Orlando, FL; J.B. Gaither, Jr. of Raleigh; Mary Gaither Roution of Raleigh; and William W. Gaither, of Raleigh. (2, 4)
- Gluck, Sanford O. Gluck, “J.B. Gaither Joins Textile Faculty”, Textile Forum, Winter 1950, Page 17.
- Personal Communication, J.B. Gaither, Jr., January, 2012.
- Betty Gaither, Personal Communication, January 2012.
- Obituary, Raleigh News & Observer, September 2001.