Roger D. Malkin, a pioneer and leader in American agribusiness and long-time chairman and chief executive officer of Delta and Pine Land Co., died at his home in Scott, Miss., Nov. 22. He was 69.
Malkin was best known in the cotton industry for spearheading the introduction of the first cotton varieties to contain the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) gene. But, he also played a role in a number of other developments in his adopted home, the Delta.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., and graduate of Dartmouth College, Malkin first became acquainted with the Delta region when he acquired Federal Compress and Warehouse Co., the world's largest cotton compress and warehouse company, headquartered in Memphis, Tenn.
"When Roger was talking about acquiring Federal Compress, he was told it was a `lock-box' company," said Jerry Hafter, an attorney and long-time friend of Mr. Malkin who spoke at a memorial service at Scott. "When he asked what that was, he was told that someone had locked the stock away and forgotten about it.
"Delta and Pine Land was a lock-box company, but the stock was locked away in London, where he purchased it from Courtaulds Ltd. in 1978."
In the ensuing 22 years, Malkin took Delta and Pine Land from being one of a handful of relatively small seed producers to the world's largest cotton planting seed company. Along the way, he helped introduce Bollgard and Roundup Ready cotton.
"In the early 1980s, Roger had his eye on the future and the possible contributions biotechnology could have for agriculture," said Murray Robinson, D&PL chief executive officer and vice chairman. "The years that followed were exciting as we moved through the exploratory phase to research and development and, ultimately, to commercialization. This technology has revolutionized cotton production."
"Roger left us an incredible legacy, and we will continue to build upon the vision he had for us as individuals and for his company," said Steve M. Hawkins, Delta and Pine Land president.
"In his work, he combined a vision for the future with the daily connection to farmers - that combination is extremely rare and will be missed. He also championed the arts and education, making our community stronger through his commitment and actions."
"People talk about the Delta needing quality companies and committed people, and Delta Pine is one of the few companies that has successfully done that," said Hafter. "He put a lot back into the Delta."
This year, Malkin's contributions to the Mississippi Delta and the cotton industry were recognized through a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Stoneville, Miss.-based Delta Council. He also recently received a Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts from the Mississippi Arts Commission for his significant contributions as a patron to the artistic culture of the state and nation.
"Roger grew to love the South and its people," said his brother, Peter Malkin of New York. "For those of us who knew and loved him, he became a little more Southern every year."
Malkin leaves his daughter, Melissa Malkin of Encino, Calif., and his son, Jonathan R. Malkin, his daughter-in-law, Phillipa Feigen Malkin, and two granddaughters, all of Washington. His companion, Barbara Jakobson, also survives him along with his brother, Peter.
Following the memorial service, Malkin's ashes were scattered over one of the fields near the Delta and Pine Land headquarters at Scott.