Former American Candy Co. president Charles Burdine “Byrd” Looper passed away on Jan. 8 from pneumonia. He was 86.
Looper was born in 1931 in Gastonia, N.C., where his parents, Thomas Lee and Christina Curtis Looper, were educators. After graduating from Gastonia High School, he attended Duke University on a football scholarship. He was active in the Kappa Alpha Order and Marine Officer Training.
As a class of 1954 English major, he met his true love, LaNelle Edwards, in a Shakespeare class. They were married in 1955 in Goldsboro, N.C. and began their lives together as he served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps until 1957.
His lifelong interest in reading, writing and speaking led to a successful career in sales and an active leadership role in volunteerism in Selma and for Duke University as a fundraiser and staunch football supporter. Byrd cared deeply about others and was known for his big smile and firm handshake, which made him a natural salesman.
He began his business career in 1957 as a case soap salesman with Procter & Gamble Co. Three years later, he joined Clinton Corn Processing Co., a division of Standard Brands Inc., as a salesman. He was soon promoted to Atlanta district sales manager.
In 1967, he joined American Candy Co. in Selma, Ala., as director of sales and marketing. He was promoted to president in 1979. Working at American Candy was his favorite job, and in his words, “What could be more fun than making and selling children’s candy?” He retired in 1990 after having grown the company by winning accounts at Disney and Walmart.
During his 23 years in the candy industry, he served on the board of the National Confectioners Association from 1981 to 1990, was honored as a Candy Dean by the National Candy Wholesalers Association in 1980, and was inducted into the Candy Hall of Fame in 2001.
An active member of the Selma community (Rotary, Selma Country Club, American Legion, Quarterback) and serving as president in many organizations, Byrd was selected as an Olympic Games Torch Bearer for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. In 1998, he was honored as Citizen of the Year by the Selma Rotary Club. He also served as chairman of the Selma Downtown Redevelopment Authority, which took the lead in restoring the St. James Hotel.
Duke University honored him as Alumni of the Year by awarding him the Charles A. Dukes Award for his years of service to Duke and Duke Football. For recreation, he actively enjoyed golf and bird hunting with friends and spending time at the beach with family.
He is survived by his wife, LaNelle, daughters Lisa Looper Jorgens and Lesley Lee Looper, and granddaughters Laura LaNelle Jorgens and Emily Caroline Jorgens, as well as, his sister, Nancy Looper Sharpe, who resides in Cambridge, England. He is preceded in death by his sister, Christina Looper Baker, and brother William Curtis Looper. In addition, he has numerous nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews.
Donations in his memory can be made to either the Selma-Dallas County Public Library or Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Selma. The memorial service was held at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church Jan. 13.