If there was a Mount Rushmore of United Way of Greenville County, textile pioneer John White Arrington would be the first face carved.
Born in Warrenton, N.C., in 1866, Arrington first came to Greenville in 1904 to save a struggling textile plant, arriving to serve as the treasurer of the newly formed Union Bleaching and Finishing Company. By 1910, Arrington had turned things around and was president of the now booming company.
As successful as Arrington was in the textile business, he was beloved in Greenville for his kind heart and civic leadership. He was president of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce and a director for the national Chamber and president of the Kiwanis of Greenville.
According to a 2016 article in the Greenville Journal, “His sense of community responsibility went above and beyond the enlightened self-interest typical of the Progressive Era. As a friend wrote upon this death, ‘He helped people so naturally, spontaneously and without condescension that it never occurred to him or them that he was doing good from a sense of religious duty, to avoid labor trouble or for praise’.”
That sense of community responsibility can be credited for helping motivate Arrington to lead the founding of the Greenville Community Fund in 1922. He served as the organization’s first board chair and campaign chair, raising more than $82,000 in the inaugural campaign, not to mention laying the groundwork for an organization that continues to serve his community for 100 years and counting.
Arrington’s death in 1938 was covered by The New York Times, but it was the local paper that best summed up his impact:
“He did not measure success by the accumulation of worldly good but rather by the service he could render to his church, his fellow man and the community. He loved people. And people loved him.”