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Lonnie (Bo) Pilgrim, co-founder of Pilgrim’s Pride, has died

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PITTSBURG, Texas — Lonnie (Bo) Pilgrim, co-founder and longtime chairman and CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. died July 21. He was 89.

The company began on Oct. 2, 1946, when his brother Aubrey Pilgrim, and his partner Pat Johns, bought a feed and seed store in Pittsburg. Mr. Pilgrim would join soon after.

In the  years ahead, the company continued to grow, purchasing Market Produce of Fort Worth in 1969 and in the 1990s acquiring Green Acre Foods Inc., WLR Foods Inc., and ConAgra’s chicken division. In 2006 Pilgrim’s Pride completed the acquisition of Atlanta-based Gold Kist.

Acquired by Brazil’s JBS S.A. in 2009, and headquartered now in Greeley, Colo., Pilgrim’s Pride accounts for one in every five chickens produced in the country, employs nearly 40,000 people and has annual revenues of about $8 billion.

Donning a pilgrim-styled hat and appearing in countless advertisements over the years, Mr. Pilgrim make the company’s brand instantly recognizable. His likeness remains on a larger-than-life bust just outside the former headquarters between Pittsburg and Mount Pleasant.

JBS issued this statement: “On behalf of the Pilgrim’s and JBS teams, we offer our sincere condolences to the friends and family of Lonnie (Bo) Pilgrim. Today’s poultry industry was built on the foundation of men like Mr. Pilgrim. He was a true icon,and his loss will resonate throughout our company and our industry.”

Mr. Pilgrim was a member of the First Baptist Church in Pittsburg, had served in the U.S. Army and was chairman emeritus of Pilgrim Bank.

He provided for the Patty & Bo Pilgrim Chapel at Dallas Baptist University, the Patty & Bo Pilgrim Cancer Center at Texas Oncology in Mount Pleasant and the Witness Park and Prayer Tower in Pittsburg.

Survivors include his wife Patty R. Pilgrim of Pittsburg; sons Ken Pilgrim of Pittsburg and Pat Pilgrim of Lake Creek; daughter Greta Henson of Dallas; sister Sue Hester Kellam of Pittsburg; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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