- William F. "Bill" Cotton
William F. "Bill" Cotton Sr. (
October 23, 1897– April 23, 2006) was a prominent central Louisiana businessmanwho 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
He then joined the
United States Navyand served as the chief commissary steward on the USS Oklahomaoff 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 Arkansasin Fayetteville, where he studied accountingfor 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 Bankand 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 Commercein 1942 and president of the Lions Clubin 1943. He served on the elected Rapides Parish School Boardand was a member of Governor Sam Jones' War Council, the Industry and Commerce Board, and the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade associationfounded 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 Scholarshipis 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 49between 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 pecantrees, and walking regularly. He also held a driver's licenseuntil he was 103.
Cotton was grand marshal of the Alexandria
Veterans Dayparade 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
BaptistChurch, in downtown Alexandria. Burial was in Greenwood Memorial Park in Pineville.
Veterans of the First World War who died in 2006
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