A longtime resident of Nashville, Tennessee, the late Ben Willingham, Sr., spent more than four decades building a successful career as an executive in the apparel industry. In 1933, he began working with the General Shoe Corporation (now known as Genesco, Inc.), where he initially maintained responsibilities as a merchandise manager. Over the next few decades, Ben Willingham, Sr., moved up through the ranks to obtain the role of president in 1958.
In the following year, Ben Willingham, Sr., played an instrumental role in the company’s name change to Genesco, Inc., as well as its growth throughout the Nashville region. Under his leadership, the company soon became the most prominent producer and seller of apparel across the globe, boasting annual sales in excess of $1 billion. Mr. Willingham retired as the president and chief executive officer of Genesco in 1969.
However, within one year, Mr. Willingham accepted a position as vice president of corporate planning with Burlington Industries. Subsequently, the company named him president of Burlington International, and he served at the worldwide headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. Following his retirement in 1975, Mr. Willingham continued to serve numerous multinational firms as a corporate counselor. In 1991, he passed away at the age of 77.