Pallet Maker Built Goodwill

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Carroll Edwards built a fortune and a philanthropic legacy constructing simple wooden pallets in his hometown of Marshville in eastern Union County.

After working as a truck driver, he started his business in 1969 in a renovated chicken house. He grew Edwards Wood Products into one of the nation's largest manufacturers of wooden pallets.

Edwards, 71, died Sunday after being diagnosed recently with acute leukemia.

He and his wife Elona contributed heavily to many Union County charities. In 2000, he gave $500,000 to build a library named for his mother, Lois Morgan Edwards, who died when he was 8. The Edwardses later contributed an undisclosed six-figure sum to CMC-Union hospital's cancer center, which is named for them.

The son of a Marshville cattle salesman, Edwards sold two trucks for $20,000 to start his business. (He had hauled brick and sand since he was 18, Elona Edwards said.) Today, the company makes about 100,000 pallets a week and employs about 400 people in its pallet-making operation and offshoot lumber and trucking businesses in Union, Alamance and Scotland counties. It is one of the largest manufacturers in the $5.2 billion pallet industry, said Bruce Scholnick, president of the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association, an Alexandria, Va.-based industry group.

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