Local entrepreneur dies at age 80

Prominent St. Landry Parish business innovator and Dixie Glass founder Randolph McCormick Sr., 80, died Tuesday morning. It was his birthday.

"He was a fighter," said grandson Karl "Jay" McCormick Jr. "He was sick off and on for four or five years. He survived lung surgery, double pneumonia, colon cancer and almost drowning in a pool in Jamaica. He'd been in the hospital about a month, released, re-admitted."

Randolph McCormick, a native of Cleveland, Texas, and resident of Sunset, died of natural causes at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Opelousas General Health System.

In 1946, he established Dixie Glass in Opelousas, an enterprise which grew into a string of 43 stores in five states from Orange, Texas to Montgomery, Ala. and employed 250 people, netting $7 million a year in its hey day in the 1990s.

McCormick also founded a realty company that constructed subdivisions, commercial properties, trailer parks and storage facilities in Port Barre, Opelousas and Lafayette. He also was instrumental in the development of the Opelousas-St. Landry Chamber of Commerce and was a co-founder of the organization that evolved into the St. Landry Economic and Industrial District.

His success was all the more incredible because he had only a seventh grade education.

"He had a great mind for numbers, but he was always looking for something else, the next challenge. He was a great leader and a great teacher," said Joey Doucet, his son-in-law who worked at his side for 22 years. Doucet married McCormick's daughter, Bridget.

McCormick's family was in the glass business in East Texas in 1932. He learned the family trade before and after serving in the U.S. Navy as a merchant ship gunner during World War II. But he wanted more.

"He was working for his brother for $10 a day and he complained to his mother. She said, 'You think you can run your own shop,' and he said he could and that's how he got started," said Jay McCormick said.

According to Doucet, McCormick did not want to compete with his brothers so he asked his mother to help him relocate. Joey Doucet said the businessman knew his greener pastures were outside of Texas.

Georgia McCormick and son Randolph first rejected Lafayette before driving through Opelousas. They thought they were driving through it.

"He saw the Yambilee Festival going on and he said to his mother, 'This looks like a fun town. This is where I want to be.' And so he stayed," said Bridget Doucet.

With his $300 discharge check from the Navy, he set up his first shop in Opelousas.

"He started with nothing. He would keep the windshields outside of his store because he had no place to put them," Joey Doucet said. "He just knew how to grow businesses. He built a plant, then opened new stores, then built a plant, then opened new stores."

McCormick Realty was founded to manage the properties. The main glass plant and store expanded to 152,000 square feet while the reality company branched into various enterprises. At one point in the 1990s, Dixie Glass was the top purchaser in the nation of Ford Motor Company windshields.

McCormick sold the manufacturing arm in 1993 and the stores in 1998. He would never say how much he was paid. But Doucet said the businessman would suggest it was a big number.

"He'd say, 'If you put the pile on the desk, a show dog could not jump over it," Doucet said.

McCormick Realty manages warehouse space, 400 mini-storage units and residential properties. The firm has built and sold residential subdivisions and commercial property.

"We have built seven Family Dollar stores in Port Barre, Krotz Springs, Washington, Cottonport, Simmsport and Mansura," Doucet said.

In 1991, McCormick served as grand marshal of the Yambilee Parade, the event that first caught his eye in 1946. He was presented a citation by Gov. Edwin Edwards in 1992 as the Louisiana Small Business Person of the Year and got a visit from President Ronald Reagan in 1986.

"He was a very demanding boss. You had to pay attention. He didn't repeat himself," Joey Doucet said.

But he was equally demanding on himself. When Dixie Glass began a product line of etched glass designs, McCormick noticed in the plant that static electricity was causing dust to accumulate in the etched lines of the glass.

"He went to the library to learn all he could about static electricity and discovered that he could ground his machines and that would stop the problem. So that is what he did, and it worked," Doucet said.

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