Legendary Texas businessman and poultry mogul Bo Pilgrim died at home
There is a 37-foot bust of Bo Pilgrim in his pilgrim's hat outside of the Pilgrim's Pride processing center in Pittsburg, Texas.
Famed Texas poultry mogul Lonnie “Bo” Pilgrim, who was CEO of Pilgrim's Pride from 1966 to 2009, died Friday, July 21, at his home in Pittsburg, Texas. He was 89 years old.
Pilgrim’s Pride began in 1946 when Bo Pilgrim, his brother, and a business partner bought a Pittsburg, Texas, feed and seed store for $3,500. In 2007, Pilgrim’s Pride had become the biggest poultry producer in the entire world.
Pilgrim was a larger-than-life character. He was known for appearing in Pilgrim’s Pride commercials with a pilgrim’s hat and a chicken named Henrietta. There is even a 37-foot-tall bust of Bo Pilgrim in his pilgrim’s hat outside the Pilgrim’s Pride processing center in Pittsburg, Texas.
Lonnie "Bo" Pilgrim, who built Pittsburg's Pilgrim's Pride Chicken into a multinational, Fortune 500 listed chicken processor has died. pic.twitter.com/T9dvvrvSyV— The History of Texas (@TheHistoryofTX) July 22, 2017
Pilgrim is also particularly famous for the time in 1989 when he showed up on the Texas Senate floor to hand out $10,000 checks with blank “payee” lines to the state senators. Nine of the state senators accepted.
“It's primarily just for the name identification with the politicians. They will answer your calls and give you an appointment and listen to you describe an issue. It does not infer a bribe,” Pilgrim said at the time, according to the New York Times.
Pilgrim was chief executive of Pilgrim’s Pride from 1966 to 2009, when he was replaced as CEO amid bankruptcy proceedings. Pilgrim’s Pride was acquired in 2009 by the JBS USA food processing company and was the subject of one of the biggest food recalls of 2016 when more than 5 million pounds of poultry had to be removed from shelves over contamination concerns. Pilgrim's influence on the food industry is still felt today as JBS is one of the 10 companies make almost everything you eat and drink.