Great architects possess a vision to see what others don’t and the uncanny ability to create entities that influence everything around them for years to come.
Throughout his 56 years at Flowers Foods — 22 of them as chief executive officer of the company — Amos R. McMullian had such foresight to guide the Thomasville, Ga.-based business during a time of unprecedented baking industry consolidation, seeing opportunities for the long term at every turn. From the late 1970s to the early 1990s, he led more than 60 acquisitions that transformed the regional baking company into the nation’s second largest with more than $4 billion in annual sales.
“Other small independent baking companies had the same opportunities to grow and succeed, but Amos was a driving force who had the leadership and courage to make tough decisions to grow Flowers Foods,” recalled Brad Alexander, chief operating officer, Flowers Foods, in one of nearly a dozen letters supporting Mr. McMullian’s nomination into the American Society of Baking’s 2020 Baking Hall of Fame.
Under his tutelage, Flowers Foods also became one of the country’s most automated and technologically advanced baking companies. Robert Benton, executive vice-president of network optimization for Flowers Foods, pointed out that Mr. McMullian embraced the move to more highly automated “next generation” bakeries. He also expanded the business into new segments within the baking industry and helped build the baking industry’s first $1 billion bread brand, namely Nature’s Own.
“Amos’ business philosophy centered around achieving success through the concepts of least-cost manufacturing, quality products, innovation in manufacturing and distribution systems, with an emphasis on employee achievement and advancement,” Mr. Benton noted. “His ability to take the ‘long view’ allowed the company’s management team to make the most of business and industry trends.”
Mr. McMullian’s career with Flowers began after serving three years in the U.S. Marine Corps and graduating from Florida State University. In 1963, he was hand-picked to join the company’s management team by W.H. Flowers, Jr., son of its founder. He began his career as assistant manager, first at the Thomasville bakery, then at the newly acquired Atlanta Baking Co.
After serving as regional vice-president, he became president and c.o.o. and joined the board of directors in 1976. Five years later, he was named c.e.o. In 1985, he was elected chairman. Following his retirement as c.e.o. in 2003, he continued to serve as non-executive chairman until 2005. He retired as chairman emeritus in 2019.
A leader in the baking industry, Mr. McMullian served as chairman of the American Bakers Association and chair of the Quality Bakers of America. A strong believer in personal and corporate citizenship, he promoted the values of limited government and free enterprise through a market-oriented economy. He was instrumental in founding FloPAC, one of the nation’s first political action committees, and was involved in the development of the American Bakers PAC.
In Thomasville, he’s an active member of All Saints’ Episcopal Church. He’s served in leadership roles with the boards of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and the Georgia Research Alliance.
Although Mr. McMullian is retired from the company, his family’s impact on Flowers Foods and the baking industry continues. His son Ryals McMullian currently serves as president and c.e.o. of the company.