Paul Hunt Broyhill dead at 97

Legendary furniture executive helped build company into one of the leading furniture manufacturers, brands in the world

LENOIR, N.C. – Paul Hunt Broyhill, the long-time, legendary leader of Broyhill Furniture Industries who built the company into one of the largest furniture makers in the world, died on Oct. 5, surrounded by family members. He was 97.

Broyhill, who was an inductee in the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame, also was inducted into the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame in 2004 for his many accomplishments in the industry.

He was born in Lincolnton, N.C. on April 5, 1924, the son of J. Edgar Broyhill and Satie Hunt Broyhill. He attended Lenoir High School and Culver Military Academy where he graduated in 1941.

Paul Hunt Broyhill

After studying at Virginia Polytechnical Institute and attending the University of North Carolina, he joined the U.S. Army and served until the end of World War II as an infantry sergeant, and later as a technical sergeant.

Following the war, he returned to the University of North Carolina at Chapel, and graduated with honors in Business Administration in 1947 as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, according to a biography on the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame website.

He married Clara Faye Arnold on Aug. 27, 1956. She preceded him in death in 2002. They had three children, Caron Broyhill Wilson, Claire Broyhill Davis and Hunt Broyhill.

After graduating, he joined the family business at Broyhill Furniture, where he rose through the executive ranks having roles in marketing, sales, product development and design and manufacturing.

He also was credited for building the company’s customer relations department and for building a strong sales force that helped establish further national distribution for the brand.

During his many years at the company, he became known for his marketing abilities – from promoting the brand on national game shows to advertising in home magazines with national distribution.

He also helped establish Broyhill galleries at many retail stores around the country.  Over the years, he made appearances at more than 250 of these locations, according to the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame.

These and other efforts helped build Broyhill into one of the most recognized furniture brands in the world.

Broyhill became president of the company in 1959 and later became company chairman. He was credited for building more than six million square feet of manufacturing plants, traveling to Europe to seek the most modern equipment and manufacturing technology, according to his biography on the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame website.

And with the help of his brother-in-law, Bill Stevens, he developed an internal leadership training program called “Broyhill University.” Many industry leaders have been trained through this program.

According to the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame, he also was one of the first to establish a profit-sharing plan for employees. Employee participation grew from about 1,000 to 7,500 workers by 1985, the organization noted. In addition, he implemented an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or ESOP.

Company sales rose to $350 million when the company was sold in 1980, the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame said.  He retired from the company Dec. 31, 1985.

He also served on the Board of Directors for the American Furniture Manufacturers Association and in 1996, he received the AFMA’s “Man of the Year” award. He also has received a number of awards and honorary doctorates from four universities.

Following his retirement, he was actively involved in different aspects of the family business, including serving as chairman of the BMC Fund as well as other roles at Broyhill Investments, Broyhill Realty, and the Broyhill Family Foundation.

He participated in many church and civic activities, including through his membership of the First Baptist Church in Lenoir. According to the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame, he was a Sunday School teacher, member and chairman of the Board of Deacons, including a Life Deacon, Trustee of the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina and Trustee of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary of Wake Forest.

He also served on the board of the National Association of Manufacturers, the Dallas Market Center, Dallas, Texas, and served on the  board of directors and advisory councils of several colleges and universities.

Thomas Russell

Home News Now Editor-in-Chief Thomas Russell has covered the furniture industry for 25 years at various daily and weekly consumer and trade publications. He can be reached at and at 336-508-4616.

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