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From rural Edgefield County, S.C., came D.A. Tompkins (1851-1914), a man destined to bring industrial growth to Charlotte. He studied engineering at the University of South Carolina, and graduated from New York's prestigious Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1873.
Ten years later, he came to Charlotte with the Westinghouse Machinery Company. By 1887, he had been instrumental in building eight mills to extract oil from cotton seeds. Within two years, he had begun building other plants, ones that made electricity and others that processed cotton into cloth. He owned the Atherton Mill in Charlotte's first suburb, called Dilworth. By 1910, he had taken part in starting more than 250 cotton oil mills, 150 electric plants, and 100 cotton mills. He favored work schedules designed to maximize production, but opposed wage and hour regulations and child labor laws.
Tompkins was involved in publishing through his part-ownership of the Charlotte Daily Observer, the Charlotte Evening News, and the Observer Printing House. He saw newspapers as a method to promote the importance of the area's growing industrialism. D.A. Tompkins was one of Charlotte's most powerful leaders.
He never married and is buried in Charlotte's Elmwood Cemetery.