Jack Rudisill Brantley
Jack Rudisill Brantley
  • March 17, 1929 - November 7, 2017
  • Greensboro, North Carolina

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Jack R. Brantley, a textile executive whose career matched the arc of North Carolina's once-proud industry, died on November 7, 2017 in Greensboro, N.C.

He was 88. Jack passed away peacefully at Wellspring retirement community of natural causes following a brief bout of pneumonia and complications from the rapid onset of Alzheimer's disease. Jack's beloved wife of 64 years, Dotty, died nearly three and a half years earlier, also from Alzheimer's.

Reverend Dr. Sid Batts will lead a memorial for Jack at 11am on Saturday December 2 at the First Presbyterian Church, 617 North Elm Street in Greensboro. His ashes will be interred in the church's columbarium. Following the service, the family will greet friends at the adjacent Mullin Life Center.

Jack Rudisill Brantley was born in Greensboro on March 17, 1929, the youngest of four children. His parents, the late "Mama Dot" and Jim Brantley, a cotton salesman, asked his three siblings- Joe, Julian and Jean- to pick the baby boy's name, so they stuck with the "J" theme.

It was the depths of the Great Depression. As soon as Jack was big enough, his father cut down an adult-sized hickory shaft five-iron and taught his youngest son to play golf. The child's form was nearly perfect. Thus began Jack's life-long love affair with the sport. His game was neither long nor flashy, but he could hit the ball straight and he was amazingly consistent.

Jack went to Greensboro High School (Grimsley) and Darlington School in Rome, Georgia. He played varsity quarterback and broke his left leg below the knee returning a punt.

From 1947-'50, Jack attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where his dreams of becoming a doctor shifted to business. He joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon, making friends there that would later change his life. He lettered twice on UNC's excellent varsity golf team (ninth in the 1949 NCAAs). In those days, UNC's home course was Hope Valley in Durham. Wake Forest played there often and Jack knew Arnold Palmer. Casually.

As a UNC sophomore, Jack met his future bride, Dotty Rabey, on a blind date. She was a senior at Woman's College (UNC-G). It wasn't long before he was hitchhiking the 55 miles between Chapel Hill and Greensboro on a regular basis.

After graduating from UNC in 1950, Jack moved to New York City and sold denim for Greensboro-based Cone Mills. Levi Strauss was Cone's biggest customer. Nobody can remember Jack ever wearing a pair of blue jeans.

Dotty and Jack continued their long-distance romance between New York and her hometown of Savannah, Georgia where they eventually married on a scorching hot day, June 16, 1951. Dotty then moved north where the couple began building their family, starting with Jack junior in 1953, fraternal twins Betsy and Alison in 1955, and Duncan in 1959.

Despite Jack's $3,000 a year salary, New York in the 1950s was magical. The couple spent their free time with a strong contingent of expatriate North Carolinians. Jack's Broadway office was perfect for watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade. From a fourth floor window, the Brantley kids squealed with delight as gigantic balloons of cartoon characters floated past at eye level. Jack had season tickets to the New York football Giants. But he missed the 1958 NFL Championship game, considered "The Greatest Game Ever Played," choosing instead to stay home and help Dotty who was eight-months pregnant and not feeling well.

In 1960, Dotty and Jack returned to Greensboro, moving into the same house on Meadowbrook Terrace where he grew up. In 1962, Jack won the Greensboro Country Club men's championship.

The next year, he received a call from Jimmy and Bobo Tanner, friends from the SAE house, inviting him to come work for their growing dress-manufacturing business in Rutherfordton.

That began Jack's 27-year career as a division president at Tanner. He travelled constantly to the company's showroom in New York, sometimes 25 weeks a year, flying out of Charlotte on Monday mornings and returning Thursday night.

Family time was spent relaxing in the mountains at Lake Lure or the beach at Figure Eight, golf, steeplechases in Tryon, trips to New York and ball games in Chapel Hill. The men Jack worked with were the same families the Brantley's socialized with- the Tanners, Staffords, Wilkins and Benedicts. Jack and Dotty always said the Rutherfordton years were special, like a North Carolina Camelot.

But by the early 1990s, the textile world was under assault. Tanner's dress manufacturing, once exclusively in Rutherfordton, began moving overseas to Asia.

In 1992, Jack and Dotty returned to Greensboro yet again. A proponent of Dr. Edwards Deming's management theories, Jack began working as a business consultant, primarily with Charlotte Pipe and Foundry. He rejoined the Greensboro Country Club and, in 2001, scored a hole-in-one on the 6th hole.

At First Presbyterian, he taught adult Sunday school and was elected an elder. One of Jack's proudest accomplishments was leading the church's search committee for a new minister, selecting Reverend Dr. Sid Batts who has been in the pulpit since 2001.

To his family and friends, Jack was a man of kindness, curiosity and personal integrity. An avid reader, he had an agile intellect and loved asking questions as much as talking. And he was exceptionally wise. Like Yoda. At his Charlotte Pipe retirement party in 2008, he was presented with a life-size replica of the green Jedi Master.

More than anything, Jack was a good man. Towards the end, even as Alzheimer's took its cruel toll, he could still quote his favorite Shakespearean passage, lines from Hamlet that were his true north throughout his long and happy life: "This above all- to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man."

Jack is survived by his four children: Jack R. Brantley, Jr. of Decatur, Georgia; Betsy Brantley of Orange, Virginia; Alison Brantley Friedson of Berkeley, California; and Duncan G. Brantley, of Venice, California; seven grandchildren and one great granddaughter.

Jack was preceded in death by his parents,