Charles E. Gavin III
Pioneer in Textile and Chemical Process Industry
Inducted in 2016
Charles E. Gavin III’s prowess in textile engineering transformed an industry vital to the Southeast. He is a pioneer in carpet-dye technology and is responsible for many innovations in the textile industry including the development of the first acid-dyed carpet lines.
In 1959, Gavin graduated from Auburn University with a degree in textile management. He went to Dalton, Georgia, to be a shift dyer for Cabin Crafts, a subsidiary of the textile giant West Point-Pepperell. By age 23, he was tasked with designing and implementing his first dye line. After four years, he joined Rossville Carpet Dyeing in Rossville, Georgia, as plant manager, and designed and constructed an innovative toll dying facility the dyed carpets without a variation in shade, a common problem.
In 1965, he became laboratory manager and technical service manager with Allied Chemical Corporation in Charlotte, North Carolina. While there, he earned a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina. He left two years later to join Columbus Mills in Columbus, Georgia, as superintendent of dying.
By now the industry had mostly moved away from woven cotton to more affordable man-made fibers, but even as nylon was being adopted, little was known about the best way to dye. Gavin’s work used acid dyes instead of disperse dyes, which gave carpets even color that did not fade. He worked to implement the new dye line for the company’s largest account, Sears and Roebuck, and the industry scrambled to catch up. The process remains an industry standard.
He advanced at Columbus Mills, eventually becoming vice president of carpet manufacturing, but he left in 1979 to form MFG Chemical in Dalton to develop and market improved chemicals for the dyeing and finishing of carpets. The company began with just Gavin and his wife, Carol Ann, but is now a four-site chemical manufacturer serving a large segment of the market including agriculture, pulp and paper, mining, water treatment along with oil and gas. Still a family-run business, Gavin serves as board chairman, while his son, Charles E. Gavin IV, serves as president.
Professionally, Gavin has been a member of the American Association of Textile Colorists and Chemists since he was a student at Auburn. He served as treasurer and then president of the AATCC, and was selected for the society’s Harold C. Chapin Award for his service to the industry.
He has also been a supporter of engineering education and workforce development in Alabama. He donated a transformational gift of $8 million to Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. The gift will allow an update and renovation to the college’s textile building, renamed the Carol Ann and Charles E. Gavin III Engineering Research Laboratory. The gift also created an endowed professorship.
Auburn recognized Gavin in 2003 as the Outstanding Alumnus in Textile Engineering and in 2014 with a Distinguished Auburn Engineer Award. He has been a member of the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council, Auburn Engineering Eagles Society and the Auburn Engineering Keystone Society.