MARTINSVILLE, Va. -

A leader in Martinsville's textile industry has died. Bill Pannill was president of Pannill Knitting Incorporated for 22 years.

He died at his home in North Carolina yesterday. His father started the company that made fleeced sweatshirts and sweatpants.

Bill took over in 1966 and expanded the company as sells grew to more than 259 million dollars in 1987 with more than 52 hundred workers.

A former employee says Pannill always appreciated his staff.

"He loved being friends with the employees. He really wanted them to feel comfortable to come and talk to them about problems, situations," said Myrtle Robertson, a former employee.

Pannill resigned in 1988 and the company became part of the Sara Lee Corporation.

A graveside service is scheduled Thursday 11 at Oakwood Cemetery in Martinsville.