William F. "Bill" Cotton

William F. "Bill" Cotton

William F. "Bill" Cotton Sr. (October 23, 1897 – April 23, 2006) was a prominent central Louisiana businessman who acquired or built five bakeries in Alexandria, Shreveport, Baton Rouge, Monroe and Natchez, Mississippi. At the time of his death at the age of 108, he was also the nation's oldest living Shriner and one of the last remaining American veterans of the First World War.

Education and military service

One of eight children, Cotton was born in tiny Corley in Logan County, Arkansas. He graduated in 1917 from high school in Fort Smith, the seat of Sebastian County.

He then joined the United States Navy and served as the chief commissary steward on the USS Oklahoma off the coast of France.

In November 1999, he was awarded for his valor during the Great War the National Order of the Legion of Honor, the highest honor bestowed by the French on foreign nationals.

After he was discharged from the Navy in 1919, Cotton enrolled at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where he studied accounting for two years. He then went to work for Shipley Bakery in Fort Smith.

In 1929, Cotton wed the former Genevieve Hathorn. His wife died on December 11, 1963. At the time of Cotton's death, he was married to the former Mae C. Compton (born in 1918).

Cotton brothers bakery

In 1923, he moved to Alexandria, the seat of Rapides Parish, and, along with his brother, Herbert M. "Hub" Cotton, founded the Cotton organization. They bought the Louisiana Baking Company and changed the name to "Cotton Brothers". One of their products is Holsum -- bread, buns, and pastries. They enlarged the plant five times before building the present company facility on MacArthur Drive in Alexandria in 1951.

Cotton was a founding member of W.E. Long Baker's Co-op in Chicago, which has the trademark on Holsum products. He was also a director of the former Guaranty Bank and Trust Company in Alexandria.

Extensive civic leadership

A Shriner since 1927, he was a member of the El Karubah Temple in Shreveport. Cotton "was a fine man. . . . always the gentleman . . . I respected him dearly," said Ray McLaurin, a fellow Shriner from Alexandria.

Cotton was also president of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce in 1942 and president of the Lions Club in 1943. He served on the elected Rapides Parish School Board and was a member of Governor Sam Jones' War Council, the Industry and Commerce Board, and the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade association founded only two years before Cotton's birth.

Also in 1943, he founded the Better Sire Club in Alexandria in an effort to improve the bloodlines of cattle in this area.

Bill Cotton and Rife Saunders also helped to persuade Governor Jones to establish the originally two-year (later four-year) Louisiana State University at Alexandria. To this day, the Bill Cotton Scholarship is awarded to a qualified freshman at the university.

Cotton and others persuaded then United States Senator Russell B. Long, a Louisiana Democrat, to promote what is now Interstate 49 between Shreveport and Lafayette through Alexandria. In 1997, Cotton proposed that the roadway be named the "Russell Long Interstate Highway", but the name has not yet been selected.

When he turned 100, Cotton, a reservoir of energy, was still mowing his own yard, driving 100 miles each week to go fishing, planting pecan trees, and walking regularly. He also held a driver's license until he was 103.

Cotton was grand marshal of the Alexandria Veterans Day parade for several years. Bud Teal of the American Legion, said that Cotton was a member of the organization for eighty-five years.

Services were held at Cotton's church, Emmanuel Baptist Church, in downtown Alexandria. Burial was in Greenwood Memorial Park in Pineville.


* [http://www.thetowntalk.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060425/NEWS01/604250314/1002]
* [http://goliath.ecnext.com/comsite5/bin/pdlanding.pl?pdlanding=1&referid=1868&accession_number=0000607718&ovchn=INK&ovcpn=usa&ovcrn=United-States&ovtac=PIB]
* [http://www.unvene.com/county-14808/bakeries/rapides.htm]
* [http://www.alexandria-louisiana.com/other-alex-01.htm]
* [http://www.holsum.com/]

ee also

*Veterans of the First World War who died in 2006

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