Newly retired Gloria Freeman kept SCMA gears turning for 43 years
Posted January 7, 2021
By Devin Steele (DSteele@eTextileCommunications.com)
Gloria Freeman, one of the most visible behind-the-scenes’ gear-turners in the manufacturing industry in South Carolina, retired on December 31 after 43 years of service to the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance (SCMA).
Freeman joined the alliance, founded in 1902 and later named the Cotton Manufacturers Association, on July 10, 1977 when it was known as the South Carolina Textile Manufacturers Association (SCTMA). She was hired as administrative assistant to Executive Vice President John Beasley. The group expanded its membership to include all manufacturers and changed its name to the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance in 2000.
She held several positions at the SCMA, serving as vice president of Programs & Events in a parttime role for the last 11 years. She became secretary/treasurer of the board in 1980 and vice president in 2001.
Freeman, who received the S.C. Society of Association Executives as Executive of the Year Award in 2015, said she is pleased as she looks back on her career.
“I have been truly blessed to have such a rewarding career with the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance,” she said. “My co-workers over the years have been like family, and our members have always been supportive of me. My job was fun, and I looked forward to each day. Thank you all for allowing me to be part of such a great organization!”
Freeman coordinated SCMA programs, meetings and events and managed the SCMA Human Resources Division, Manufacturing Operation Division and the Fiber Buyer Division Boards, the latter of which took her to numerous Southern Textile Association (STA) annual meetings, where numerous textile industry representatives came to know her. She also managed the SCMA Textile Council. She earned a degree in Applied and Professional Sciences from the University of South Carolina.
Freeman is well known in the state’s manufacturing industry, particularly in the textile sector.
Friends and colleagues offered numerous memories and well wishes for Freeman when she announced that she was calling it a career.
“To know Gloria is to love her, and she has been an integral part of our organization for over a third of our 118-year history,” said Sara Hazzard, SCMA’s president & CEO, who worked with Freeman at the alliance for 16 years. “Gloria's wealth of experience, knowledge and relationships will be greatly missed, and we are excited for her as she begins her well-deserved retirement.”
Lewis Gossett, SCMA’s president & CEO from 2003-2017, said Freeman loved the organization, adding, “It will not be the same without her now. It was far better off without me than it will be without her. Members genuinely loved her, and many of them worked with her for so long.”
Gossett added that Freeman’s contributions to the SCMA’s achievements and relationships it built over the years are immeasurable.
“Gloria should take a lot of pride and satisfaction based on the impact she had on that organization and the state,” he said. “We all know how important SCMA is to the business community and the people who work for those companies in South Carolina, and Gloria played as much a role in contributing to its successes as anybody – such as legislative successes – because she was basically holding down the fort so that others could go do that work. She should be very proud of that aspect of her contributions. She's largely unsung, but 100 percent there. We couldn't have gotten much done without her. She was a great ambassador for SCMA, and was incredible with member relations.”
Charles Hamrick, chief financial officer at Hamrick Mills, Gaffney, S.C., started his career with his family-owned fabric production company in 1978, one year after Freeman joined the SCTMA.
“Through my early involvement with SCTMA, I quickly noticed who ran the organization,” said Hamrick, a past SCMA president. “Gloria treats everyone with respect and kindness and never missed a beat at any of the functions she was responsible for planning, organizing and running. Her professionalism is known throughout the Southeast because of the way she deals with everyone involved and takes care of the membership. While I know SCMA will miss her knowledge and experience, I will miss speaking regularly, in a work capacity, to a friend I have had in the business for 42 years. That is a rarity in itself.”
He also offered a personal note to Freeman: “Gloria, you have certainly seen a lot of changes over the years and worked with a lot of different personalities. Through it all, your main focus has always been to make sure South Carolina is the best place in the world for manufacturing. You have been an integral part of the continuing success of SCTMA and SCMA and what they both stood for over the last 43 years. All of us at Hamrick Mills thank you for your dedication to manufacturing and wish you and (husband) Harry all the best in retirement. Godspeed, my friend!”
George Abbott was an active member of SCTMA/SCMA for decades before his retirement as vice president of manufacturing at Inman Mills, Inman, S.C., last year, called Freeman “a terrific person.”
“Gloria is absolutely one of a kind,” he said. “She is always so friendly, thorough and knowledgeable, she’s incredibly helpful and she’s such a good organizer and professional,” he said. “SCMA, the manufacturing community and all the thousands of people who know her through the organization are going to miss her tremendously. She deserves nothing but the best in retirement.”
Steve Adams, retired president of Seydel-Woolley, Pendergrass, Ga., and a member of the alliance for many years, shared similar sentiments.
“Gloria was very professional,” he said. “The first time I attended an SCTMA meeting, she made sure we were introduced properly and our people were shown great respect. Gloria did a fantastic job and will be greatly missed!”
Brad Burnett, a former plant manager at a South Carolina textile company, called Freeman a “consummate professional,” adding that he was “blessed” to have served as one of the Plant Manager Division leaders who worked his way through the SCMA’s executive committees.
“Gloria was a friend who cared about people, and she placed the needs of the people within the organization above her own preferences,” he said. “She was a great teacher and guide as many new people came through SCTMA and then SCMA.
Burnett, now an industry consultant, added: “Gloria had a great family backing her up throughout her working career. Gloria and Harry were a dynamic duo if there were ever two people who fed off each other for success in their endeavors. She ‘made’ the SCMA events for me and I don’t think I ever missed a hug from her. I pray for continued success in her retirement and for health and strength in her life.”