Free Enterprise is Theme at Marks

Sallie King Self Park
Sallie King Self Park

Family-Owned Corporation Founded by P. M. B. Self

Of the many diverse segments in the chemical industry, on either a large or small scale, the two categories of the industry with the greatest number of Mississippi representatives are those dealing with the manufacture of fertilizers and those specializing in the processing of animal and vegetable oils and fats.

Fertilizers, in Mississippi, are manufactured by no less than 52 companies; oil processing plants number more than 30 with the majority of these concentrating on cotton seed and related by-products.

An outstanding example of this portion of the industry may be found at Marks, in the heart of the Delta country, where one enterprising man has built an impressive corporate structure while keeping all operations on a family-owned basis.

The Riverside Oil Mill located at Marks was built by Mr. P. M. B. Self during the year 1940 with the idea of encouraging his children to stay close around him.  Upon the completion of this plant, the responsibility of its operation was assumed by his son, William King [Self], Sr. who with others of his family and the encouraging guidance of his father has expanded this enterprise to include the Riverside Fertilizer Co. and the Riverside Chemical Co.

A study of this remarkable man’s life and accomplishments would renew anyone’s faith in the precepts of American democracy and the free enterprise system.

The beginning of the story about Mr. Self’s activities in Marks and in Quitman County dates back to 1904 when he came here from his childhood home of Independence, Tate County, Mississippi.  His first business venture was a small mercantile business operated with a partner whom he later bought out.  After enjoying about eight years of business success, Mr. Self took note of how well his farmer neighbors were doing and was impressed by the wonderful fertility of our County’s soil.  His faith in his ability to purchase and operate a farm on a modest scale proved him right.

In the years following, as his diligent farming practices paid dividends, Mr. Self slowly expanded his farm holdings to several thousand acres and became one of the community’s foremost leaders agriculturally and civically.  He further contributed to the development of Marks by forming the Citizens Bank and Trust Company in 1917 and assuming the position as its first and only president.

One of the pressing economic problems facing the farmers in the Mississippi Delta for many years was that concerned with the utilization of the large labor force after the growing and harvesting seasons are over.  This problem was solved by Mr. Self in a typical manner when he decided to build and operate a cotton seed processing plant utilizing the heretofore inactive off-season workers.

The Riverside Oil Mill came into being and started turning out all the seed by-products which previously had been processed only in other parts of the state.  The oil products, meal, hulls, and linters produced here had the two-fold benefit of stabilizing local economy by adding to the variety of raw materials processed here, and supplying a new source of income through the creation of additional jobs for a large number of people who were previously employed only about nine months of the year.

New Mill Installed

A completely new mill was installed in 1941, the first erected in the state in a generation.  The plant was built to take care of future expansions, of which there have been many.  Present storage facilities for cotton seed alone provide for the handling of 40,000 tons.

Subsequent expansions in the Riverside Oil Mill were made to handle the processing of soybeans to produce oil and cake for commercial users.  Soybean storage capacity presently is 750,000 bushels.  This material is processed by some of the most modern solvent extraction methods known to the industry.

It was a natural move to have a man of Mr. Self’s ability to further expand operations to include the manufacture of supplementary agricultural products.  Eventually a fertilizer factory came into existence, followed by a chemical plant to produce insecticides.

Four separate operations have evolved from this expansion:  the Riverside Fertilizer Factory producing 360 tons of mixed fertilizer and 125 tons of super phosphate per day; the Riverside Chemical Plant, Mississippi’s largest producer of liquid and dust insecticides; the Riverside Fertilizer Company, which was formed to create a sales organization for the exclusive handling of the fertilizer output and Riverside Chemical Co., a sales organization.

Sales Rank High

Gross annual sales for the combined products manufactured are between $8 and $10 million.  The contribution to the state’s overall chemical production total by these companies is an impressive one partly because of the addition to the local agricultural and industrial economy, and partly because Riverside fertilizer and insecticide produced here are enough in excess of local needs so that they are marketed over a six state area.

As if an operation of this size were not large enough to keep Mr. Self and his family fully occupied, there are, in the family-owned corporate structure, several separate grain elevator operations as well as a number of cotton gins spread throughout the Delta and hill regions.

All of these operations are controlled and operated by Mr. P. M. B. Self, his sons and sons-in-law, and represent one of the finest agricultural and industrial achievements made anywhere in Mississippi at any time.

Agricultural operations, under the name of Self and Company, are headed by William Crabill, a son-in-law and past president of the Delta Council, and Henry Self, youngest son of P. M. B. Self.

Heading up the operations involved in fertilizer and insecticide production and sales are William King Self, eldest son, and Hill Blalock, a son-in-law and former regular army officer.

Self & Company produce certified cotton seed exclusively and they are marketed by the Marks Seed Co. of which Henry C. [Self] is president.  He is also president of the Big Three Lumber Company which handles building supplies and materials in the Marks area.

Guiding Hand Needed

Over all this gigantic operation is the guiding hand of the man who built the structure, Mr. P. M. B. Self, who, in the words of his son, William King, “supplies our finances and keeps us out of trouble.”

One would imagine that a man who had devoted his life to the development of agriculture and industry in his home town with the express purpose of “just wanting to build enough business to keep my family together” would have time for nothing else.

This is not the case with Mr. Self.  Much of his efforts throughout life have been directed to his beloved Baptist church and the hold of his fellow man.  He is president of the board of deacons of the Marks Baptist Church; a former president of the board of trustees for the Baptist Hospital in Memphis; director of the Delta Council; for many years the president of the board of trustees for the Marks School district; and a trustee of Mississippi College at Clinton.

Family-Owned Businesses

One of the most remarkable facts about the accomplishments of this unusual family is that in none of the many expansions made since the original corporate development started has outside capital been solicited for investment.

All stock in the many corporations is held by family members.  This reveals not only the exceptional business judgement but also an unbounded faith in the ability of the family to progress in the future.

A sign hangs in the office of Self & Company in Marks which reads, “Don’t waste a lot of time worrying about why a black hen lays a white egg.  Get the egg!”

This bit of humor seems to sum up the spirit and philosophy of P. M. B. Self, an inspirational example of what can be accomplished through the use of native intelligence and individual initiative under the working of our system of government.

Works Progress Administration for Mississippi, Source Material for Mississippi History, Quitman County, Vol. LX, Compiled by State-Wide Historical Research Project, Susie V. Powell, State Supervisor, Illustrated 1936-1938, Addenda

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