Southwire's roots extend to 1937, when Roy Richards Sr., then a young 25 years old, started Richards & Associates (R&A) to erect power poles with the ultimate purpose of bringing electric light to his grandmother’s home.
Richards was a recent graduate of Georgia Tech, and while the promise of jobs paying $80 a month lured most of his classmates to New York, Richards chose to stay in Carroll County, a commitment he kept even after Southwire grew into a leading player in the wire and cable industry.
During its first two and a half years, R&A strung 3,500 miles of cable, becoming the nation’s second-largest Rural Electrification Act (REA) contractor. As World War II halted all REA construction, Richards was called up into the U.S. Army, eventually reaching the rank of captain.
Richards returned home after the war to find that power poles put up by his company often stood wireless for months because of post-war shortages in wire. Seeing that a market existed, he decided the only way to ensure a steady supply of wire was to make it himself.
On March 23, 1950, Southwire was founded, and began production with 12 employees and second-hand machinery. Two years later, the company had shipped 5 million pounds of wire and doubled its plant size.
Since that time, Southwire has become one of the world’s leading manufacturers of wire and cable and an emerging influence in the industrial electrical space. With more than 7,000 employees, the company serves customers in a wide variety of markets across the globe and has introduced many industry-changing innovations like the SCR® continuous casting process, SIMpull Solutions® products and services, and many more.
Roy Richards passed away in 1985, but his spirit and legacy live on through his children and grandchildren, as the company remains family-owned. Upon Roy Sr.’s death, leadership of the company transitioned to two of his sons, Roy Jr. and Jim, with Roy Jr. eventually serving as CEO. Later son Lee Richards joined the firm. Under a second generation of Richards leadership, Southwire concentrated on its core business of wire and cable manufacturing.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Southwire continued to grow under family leadership, looking at opportunities to expand domestically and internationally, including the purchase of its plant in Starkville, Miss. and the introduction of a home for ongoing research and development - the D.B. Cofer Technology Center - named for D.B. “Pete” Cofer, Southwire’s first chief engineer. In 1996, Southwire built Forte Power Systems in Heflin, Ala., providing an opportunity for expansion of medium and high voltage cable production, and two years later started production at Southwire Americana De Mexico, a building wire plant.
As the century and Roy Jr’s tenure as CEO culminated, Southwire pioneered work in the development of next generation power lines, also known as superconductivity. Working with the U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and other industrial partners, Southwire developed superconductor power cable technology and introduced the first real-world application of superconductors in February 2000.
In the year 2001, the first CEO from outside of the Richards family, Stuart Thorn, was named. Thorn led Southwire’s drive for innovation through new products, like SIMpull Solutions®, shared-value educational initiatives and diversified growth. In 2016, Thorn retired, and Rich Stinson was named as Southwire’s CEO, bringing three decades of industrial manufacturing experience to the company. Stinson has further developed Southwire’s strategic plan focused on the core business, adjacent solutions and services and transformational forces that will drive the future of our industry.
Currently, the company is owned by family members and governed by a ten member board of mostly independent directors. The family is deeply committed to staying independent and very competitive in this global industry, and is actively engaging the next generation of Richards owners and entrepreneurs.