Poultry industry executive Blake Lovette, 77, died September 29, 2020.
Lovette was born December 19, 1942, to C.O. and Ruth Bumgarner Lovette. He graduated from West Wilkes High School in North Carolina in 1961. After graduating from North Carolina State University in 1965, he worked for Holly Farms, where his brother, the late Fred Lovette, was the primary founder.
Two years later, Lovette became a Holly Farms plant manager in Temperenceville, Virginia. In 1976, he returned to Wilkes when he was named Holly’s executive vice president. In 1978, Lovette moved to Russellville, Arkansas, to be executive vice president of Valmac Industries Inc. He was named CEO a year later. Lovette developed a line of prepared products for Valmac during his six years with the poultry company. He left Valmac to work for Perdue Farms in 1985, where he served as president of Perdue’s Shenandoah Products Corp. Lovette returned to Holly Farms in 1988 as Holly’s president and chief operating officer. He held this top Holly position during the period when Tyson Foods acquired Holly. He left Tyson in 1990 when he bought Lovette Egg Co. from Terry Bumgarner. Lovette renamed the company, which his father started, the Lovette Co. He owned and operated the wholesale meat and poultry distributor until he sold it to Omaha, Nebraska-based ConAgra Poultry Co. in 1998. Lovette was president of ConAgra Poultry from 1998 until he retired in 2003, the same year Pittsburg, Texas-based Pilgrim’s Pride became the nation’s second largest poultry producer when it acquired ConAgra Poultry.
Lovette served on the boards of Pilgrim’s Pride and Morris & Associates Inc., which makes refrigeration equipment used for poultry and other industries. He also worked as a consultant in the poultry industry.
He was on the boards of numerous industry-related organizations, including the National Chicken Council, where he served three years as chairman; U.S. Poultry and Egg Association; American Poultry Export Council; North Carolina Poultry Federation and Arkansas Poultry Federation.
Lovette was inducted into the North Carolina Poultry Federation Hall of Fame in 2010.
In addition to holding top corporate positions with poultry companies, Lovette served in Wilkes as a member of the Wilkes Board of Education (elected in 1996), on the boards of Wilkes Regional Medical Center for eight years (including five years as chairman), Wilkes Economic Development Corp. (including as chairman) and Wilkes Art Gallery. He also was on the Wilkes Social Services Board. At the time of his death, Lovette was chairman of the Wilkes County Republican Party and was the owner of Foothills Auto Spa in Wilkesboro.
He is survived by three children, Sena (Hal) Lovette-Crafton, Angela (David) Lovette Ware, and Amy (Ted) Lovette Lankford; six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Lovette was preceded in death by his wife, Julia Wooten Lovette.
Funeral arrangements have not been finalized.