Don Tyson, former Tyson Foods chairman and CEO, has died at the age of 80 after a brief illness.

Tyson joined the family business in 1952, when it was known as "Tyson Feed and Hatchery," and became the company's first plant manager when its first chicken processing plant was built in 1958. Tyson more than doubled the size of the company through the 1970s and '80s, making it the largest poultry producer in the U.S.

Tyson became president of Tyson Foods in 1966 and chairman and CEO in 1967. In 1983 he turned over the presidency to Leland Tollett, then the CEO position in 1991, but he remained chairman until his retirement in 1995.


"Don Tyson was a titan of the modern chicken industry," said a statement released by the National Chicken Council. "From the beginning of his leadership of his company, he saw the future of the industry and worked to make his vision a reality. He was a pioneer in moving beyond commodity chicken to value-added products and in the development of new products and international markets. Don Tyson was a key figure in transforming the industry into the powerhouse it is today. Not only his family and his company have suffered a loss, but the entire industry as well."

Tyson is survived by his son, John Tyson, and three daughters, Carla Tyson, Cheryl Tyson and Joslyn J. Caldwell-Tyson; his sister-in-law Barbara Tyson; two grandchildren and numerous friends. Visitation will be Jan. 7, from 4 to 6 p.m. at Sisco Funeral Home in Springdale, Ark. A small, private family service is planned for Jan. 8.