MEMPHIS, TENN. — John T. Stout Sr., whose long and distinguished career in the flour milling and food industries spanned more than six decades, died on Oct. 9 in Memphis. Mr. Stout was 96 years old.
A graduate of Earlham College with a bachelor’s degree in September 1943, Mr. Stout had enrolled in the V-7 Navy Program in 1942. After graduation, he attended officers’ training for the Navy at Notre Dame, and graduated as an Ensign in February 1944. Upon graduation from Notre Dame, the Navy sent him to Florida for small boat training, and he was assigned to LST550 as an officer. Mr. Stout participated in the invasion of Southern France, leading the first wave of small boats.
He returned to the United States in January 1945 and married Elizabeth Moore on Feb. 4, 1945. After their wedding and brief honeymoon, Mr. Stout returned to the Pacific for a year and was made captain of LST550 in late 1945, just prior to his final assignment to turn his ship over to Japan’s Navy. He was discharged from the Navy in early 1946 and moved to Boston with his wife to attend Harvard Business School.
Mr. Stout graduated from Harvard with a master’s degree in business administration in November 1947 and joined Dixie Portland Flour Mills, a family business, in late 1947. He spent the next three years in accounting and transportation, working at plants in Arkansas City, Kas., Higginsville, Mo., and Richmond, Va.
In 1950, Mr. Stout was named treasurer of Dixie Portland Flour Mills, headquartered in Memphis. He was promoted to executive vice-president in 1959, following the sale of Dixie Portland to Federal Compress and Warehouse. In 1965, he was promoted to president of the company and elected to the board of directors of Federal Compress.
In 1969, Federal Compress sold its cotton warehouse business and acquired Holly Farms Poultry Co., becoming The Federal Co. Subsequently, The Federal Co. changed its name to Holly Farms and moved its public listing to the New York Stock Exchange. In 1975, Mr. Stout was made a vice-president of Holly Farms, the holding company, and ran The Bakery Supply Group of Holly Farms as chairman and president of Dixie Portland Flour Mills and chairman of The White Lily Foods Co., Globe Products Co., Rustco Products and Diana Fruit Co.
Holly Farms was acquired by Tyson Foods in 1989, and immediately began selling the non-poultry businesses. Mr. Stout and a group of managers acquired Diana Fruit Co. from Tyson Foods in 1990, and he led Diana Fruit as chairman of the board for the next 20 years.
Among the non-poultry assets divested by Tyson, the company in late 1989 agreed to sell Dixie-Portland Flour Mills and White Lily Foods to ADM Milling Co. Following a couple of mill divestitures (including White Lily), ADM completed its acquisition of the milling business acquired by Tyson.
“We were fortunate to have had such a great and loving father and servant leader for 96 years,” said John Stout Jr., who followed his father into the milling industry and is currently chief executive officer of Plaza Belmont, a private equity firm that specializes in buyouts and growth capital transactions for middle market food manufacturing companies.
Mr. Stout was a member of The Friends Church in his hometown of Paoli, Ind., and subsequently Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis. He was also a member of Memphis Country Club, and enjoyed playing golf and tennis with many friends there. In addition to his 42 years of service with Holly Farms and its predecessors and subsequently 20 years as chairman of Diana Fruit Co., he was also chairman of the board of Orange County Bank, a member of The Chicago Board of Trade, a member of the board of directors of Hutchison School, The Memphis Food Bank, Harwood Training Center and Plaza Belmont Management Group.
He is preceded in death by his parents: Raymond and Sarah Stout; his wife: Elizabeth Moore Stout; and his sisters: Adeline Gennett, Jessie McCambridge and Sally Jones.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in his honor to Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, or The Friends Church located at 301 N. Chapel Street in Paoli, IN 47454.
Funeral services were held at The Friends Church in Paoli, Ind., on Saturday, Oct. 12. There also was to be a memorial celebration of life ceremony at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis on Oct. 19, with a visitation followed by a service.