THOMASVILLE, GA. — Amos R. McMullian, retired chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Flowers Foods, Inc. and 2019 inductee to the Baking Hall of Fame, died Oct. 18 at the age of 85.

Mr. McMullian’s career with Flowers and his contribution to the baking industry spanned more than 50 years. As CEO of Flowers from 1981 to 2003, he guided the company through one of its greatest periods of expansion as it transformed from a regional baker into a national food company.

A snapshot of Mr. McMullian’s leadership at Flowers was demonstrated by the company’s expansion activity between September 1994 and November 1995. During that timeframe, the company began production at a new plant at Villa Rica, Ga., and opened a new frozen food distribution facility at Suwanee, Ga.

More impressively, during the same 14-month span, Flowers completed the acquisitions of Richter’s Bakery, Inc., San Antonio; Mrs. Boehme’s Holsum Bakery, Inc., San Angelo, Texas; Holsum Baking Co., Pine Bluff, Ark.: two baking plants from Pet, Inc., at Atlanta and Rome, Ga.; Storck Baking Co., Parkersburg, W.Va.; and with The Invus Group, the cookie and cracker operations of Keebler Co.

At the height of his influence in the industry, in a 1996 interview with Milling & Baking News, Mr. McMullian marveled at the unique nature of the specific business of baking.

“I am amazed how different this business is and how long it takes somebody new to the bakery business to understand that selling a perishable product on a consignment basis is a very complex and different animal,” Mr. McMullian said. “It is not like steel or shoes or automobiles.”

The secret to the baking industry is “not a secret at all,” he said. “It is hard work and it is getting the job done in every aspect, every day. It is like housework. No matter how well you do the job today, it all has to be done again tomorrow. That is the essence of what our company is about — doing the fundamental things well today and even better tomorrow.”

Mr. McMullian’s business philosophy focused on success through least-cost manufacturing, innovation in manufacturing and distribution systems, product quality and employee achievement and advancement.

Under his leadership, Flowers engaged in more than 60 mergers and acquisitions, embraced the move to more highly automated “next-generation bakeries,” expanded into new segments within the bakery category, and helped build the baking industry’s first billion-dollar bread brand in Nature’s Own.

His career at Flowers began in 1963. After serving three years in the Marines and graduating from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Mr. McMullian was selected by the CEO and son of the company’s founder, W. H. Flowers Jr., for the role of assistant manager at the Thomasville bakery. He then moved to the newly acquired Atlanta Baking Co.   After serving as regional vice president, he was named president and chief operating officer and elected to Flowers’ board of directors in 1976.

Five years later, he was named CEO, succeeding Langdon S. Flowers. Mr. McMullian was Flowers’ fourth CEO. He was elected chairman of the board in 1985. Following his retirement as CEO in 2003, he continued to serve as non-executive chairman of the board until 2005.

Mr. McMullian’s leadership style was built on the values of honor, courage, and commitment he honed during his service as a US Marine. He was a strong believer in personal and corporate citizenship. He helped established FloPAC, one of the country’s first political action committees, and was instrumental in the development of the American Bakers PAC.

He served on Flowers’ board of directors from 1976 until he retired as chairman emeritus in 2019. He was inducted into the American Society of Baking’s Baking Hall of Fame in 2019.

Throughout his career, he served on several boards, including Hughes Supply, the American Bakers Association, Quality Bakers of America, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and the Georgia Research Alliance.

Mr. McMullian was born in Jackson County, Florida and received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Florida State University. He is survived by his wife Jackie and their children, Ryals McMullian and Britton McMullian Josey, his brother Andy McMullian and his sister Cherry Klappas.