The Gold Kist Years with Cecil Buffington







Life's a dance, you learn as you go . . .

I have not been a part of a poultry processing heirachy since around 2010. I really don't know what goes on in their day-to-day workday. I do know much about the happenings inside a poultry plant from about 1970 until well past the year 2000. It may very well be that the plants of today are vastly superior to the plants of the last quarter of the 19th century in profitability performance, associate welfare, safety performance and social structure. Somehow, in my mind, I kind of doubt this being true.

The most accomplished period of time in poultry processing history was that period between 1970 and 2000. Automation came into prevalence with amazing machines in the front of the plant and tremendous advances in automation in the back of the plant, further processing area.

It was also during this period that associate welfare and morale became pivotal in assuring a plant (company's ) success. Virtually every job in the first processing area of the plant was automated to some extent by 1980. By the mid-90's the further processing end of the plant had some type of automation for every conceivable task. When I went to Gold Kist Athens in 1977, it was a high cost, low volume,  generic sales unit that had very little automation and even fewer plans for climbing out of the middle of the pack in the 12 Gold Kist poultry divisions. My competitiveness and enthusiasm for strong performance soon jumped to the front in revamping this low expectation thought process.

If ever any processing plant had a family atmosphere with activities that featured working hard and playing hard, it was Gold Kist Athens. Performance goals became a way of life for all management, but also motivational activities and fun events while working projects became essential components to continued and assured success.  Virtually every program installed in Athens was designed to improve performance and efficiency on the job and quality of life away from the job. Family activities were abound with something always going on that involved the entire personal family and the Gold Kist family. Gold Kist management became a family unit unto itself. When looking upon the hourly workforce that made the plant so great, it was almost as if they were looked upon as children receiving support and directions from a parent.

While I have never made a list of the activities and programs that we worked into the Gold Kist Athens operation, it would probably list well into the hundreds. Everyone was provided with the tools to be successful. Everyone was an integral part of the team. We respected each other and tried to make every day a better day for everyone that worked in the Athens plant.

Now that old plant is closed. A chapter in history is no longer with us.

I can only wonder how many billions of dollars were made in that plant since the Terry family opened it in 1954. Also, how many families were positively impacted by employment at the early Colonial Poultry and later Gold Kist Poultry plant in Athens.

I'm not sure how much of esprit de corps is left in today's plant environment, but I hope it hasn't all completely gone away. I hope there is still some feeling of family in both the management team and all task performing associates .

For all of us that spent a good many years in that Gold Kist Athens plant, we will forever relish and cherish those memories as some of the best days of our life. This tribute in pictures is a thank you to all the wonderful people I was fortunate to work with in Gold Kist Athens.

I have two 40 pound poultry boxes full of pictures from my Gold Kist years.  Maybe I will add a few along as we move along through the years. 

My pledge, through my cecilbuffington.com web-site, is to always keep the memories alive.

Click on photos to enlarge


L-R; Cecil Buffington, Alfred Moore, Dr. Jerry Cox and Marceline Drake in 1977.

Cecil Buffington presents Herman Boswell with an outstanding performance award. Herman served as Maintenance Manager for 12 years in Athens, before assuming a sales career with Cantrell Machine Corporation in Gainesville, Georgia.

Sales Manager Wilson Denney and Cecil Buffington dressed for the occasion on a Florida golf course.

Denney and Buffington wearing out the course at the Tournament Players Club in Florida.

Marceline Drake receives a Gold Kist Processing Plant Jacket from Cecil Buffington. Marceline served on the Athens Plant Improvement team.

At Halloween Cecil Buffington, dressed in a President Nixon attire clowns it up with Beaulah Land.

Cecil Buffington, the youngest Plant manager of a major poultry company in the United States at the age of 26, talks things over with Tony Porter.

On the left side of the table at a perfect attendance banquet is Cecil Buffington, Betsi Craven, Mike Nix and Debbie Nash. At Pinecrest Lodge in Athens, Georgia.

The earliest known photo of Cecil Buffington in the poultry business. A Country Pride management trainee in 1969 at 22 years old.

Wilson Denney ( glasses ) and Gene Reeves - to his right - of Gold Kist sales.

Harrison McDonald in Guntersville, Alabama.

Halloween costume party at Gold Kist. Every Halloween the management team and many plant personnel would wear costumes to the plant on Halloween Day to compete for casn prizes of $100, $50, and $25 dollars in both areas.

Patsy Drake of Gold Kist personnel.

Gold Kist was involved in many civic-community projects in Athens, as one of it's largest employers.

Production manager Billy Archer looking over his processing operation.

Billy Archer - out and around.

Billy Archer receives a 25 year service award from Plant Manager Cecil Buffington.

The office ladies at a Cecil Buffington birthday cake cutting.

A Gold Kist Quality Performance banquet.

Marshall Payne looks on as Cecil Buffington and Cathy Cape have a photo taken during Halloween festivities.

Further Processing Manager David Smith and Cecil Buffington headed for Florida and some deep sea fishing.

Buffington with his catch.

Golf, golf and more golf.

Cecil Buffington presents Marie Nelms with a 30 year service award ( check).

Wilson Denney and Cecil Buffington in Carmel Bay, California at the Hog's Breath Inn. Originally owned by Carmel's most famous resident ex-Mayor and actor, Clint Eastwood the Hog's Breath Inn is one of Carmel's most famous restaurants and bars.

Cecil Buffington presents Debbie Nash with the Gold Kist Athens Processing Plant "Manager of the Year" award.

A Gold Kist associate Easter Egg Hunt.

Buffington presenting a service award.

Billy Archer and Gerald Lester chat while Mac Guest, the Georgia Bulldog All-America football player, looks on from the background.

L-R: Patsy Drake, Rhonda Boswell and Gladys Lassiter.

Some basketball team results.

Gold Kist Basketball team.

Jimmy Lance ( with glasses ) Gold Kist Athens Purchasing Manager, leads a conversation at a Gold Kist Banquet.

Cecil Buffington and his brother, Jack, play bingo at the Gold Kist Annual Associate Appreciation day.

All the Gold Kist Athens management team at a University Of Georgia Training Seminar.

Cecil Buffington with Mack Walker, a Kentucky Fried Chicken Representative.

At Mount Sterling, Kentucky, L-R: Alfred "Blackie" Moore, Gail Long, Wilson Denney, Betsi Craven and Cecil Buffington.

Marceline Drake with Cecil Buffington. Marceline was a strong right arm to many supervisors and hourly personnel from her position as Senior Personnel Department Representative.

The Gold Kist Personnel Department with Manager Fred Huskey, have a dinner in Athens.

Cecil Buffington has dinner with his uncle, Monroe Bennett, at a Gold Kist banquet.