Former National Spinning exec diesPublished 9:33pm Monday, August 27, 2012
Buster Humphreys refers to Joe Leff as a great man.
Their history goes back 47 years, to the moment Humphreys was hired to oversee the southern headquarters of National Spinning in 1965.
“He knew he needed a Southern guy down here to run the Southern stuff,” said Humphreys. “We became very close friends. He was a mentor of mine; in effect an older brother.”
Humphreys is one of a handful of people who will be giving eulogies at Leff’s funeral tomorrow in Scarsdale, N.Y. The former president and later chairman of the National Spinning board died Sunday at the age of 88.
Humphreys said Leff spent a lot of time in Washington during the company’s rise to its zenith as the largest yarn spinner and dyer in the country. At one time, the company employed 1,700 people in Washington alone, and it had plants in Warsaw, Beulahville and Whiteville. Now, the company has converted its operations from mass production to what Humphreys calls “boutique — a little of this, a little of that.” National Spinning is one of the few companies of its type still in existence in the nation.
Leff was a World War II Army veteran, a graduate of the Horace Mann School and Columbia College. He became a philanthropist, giving his time and resources to cultural, educational and Jewish causes, said his New York Times obituary. But it was his leadership skills that earned him the respect of those who worked for him locally, said Humphreys.
“I never heard, down here, a bad word about him,” Humphreys said. “He was the boss, but he never said ‘Do this, do that.’ He would give advice. The idea to solve the problem was in the suggestion.”
It was that leadership ability that encouraged people to do things, yet let them maintain their dignity, Humphreys added.
Humphreys said he would travel to New York this week to give his eulogy to “pay the proper respect to a great man — because he was a great man.”