Don Tyson, former chairman and c.e.o. of Tyson, dies

by Eric Schroeder
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SPRINGDALE, ARK. — Don Tyson, former chairman and chief executive officer of Tyson Foods, Inc., died Jan. 6. He was 80 years old.

Mr. Tyson was the son of the company’s founder, John W. Tyson, and father of the company’s current chairman, John H. Tyson.

Don Tyson worked with his father during most of the 1950s to grow the family business, then known as Tyson Feed and Hatchery, supplying feed and baby chicks to local poultry producers in Northwest Arkansas. He became Tyson’s first plant manager in 1958 when the company became “vertically integrated” by building its first chicken processing plant in Springdale. He later helped lead a number of acquisitions, including Val-Mac, Lane Poultry and Holly Farms.

Mr. Tyson was named president in 1966, and he became chairman and c.e.o. in 1967 after his father and step-mother were killed in an automobile-train accident in Springdale. He remained in those posts until 1983, when Leland Tollett was named president. Mr. Tollett was named c.e.o. in 1991 and chairman in 1995. Later, as chairman emeritus, Mr. Tyson continued to provide guidance and support for the company’s leadership team, including Tyson’s 2001 acquisition of IBP, inc.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Twilla Jean Womochil Tyson. Survivors include his son, John; three daughters, Carla Tyson, Cheryl Tyson, and Joslyn J. Caldwell-Tyson; and two grandchildren.

Visitation will be held from 4-6 p.m. Jan. 7 at Sisco Funeral Home in Springdale, with a small, private family service planned for Jan. 8. A larger public memorial service is being planned.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The Billfish Foundation, The Mayo Clinic and the Dale Bumpers College of Agriculture, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas.

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