Cover image: Thomas (left) and Charles Poston at the Southern Textile Association’s 100th annual meeting in 2008. (Photo credit: Devin Steele)
In the mid-1970s, Charles and Thomas Poston were highly regarded tennis and football players for Jordan-Matthews High School in their hometown of Siler City, North Carolina, bringing home 2-A conference championships in tennis and most valuable player awards in football. Never ones to rest on their laurels, though, the 5’7” identical twin brothers decided to try their hand at basketball.
First Methodist’s church league adult basketball team, recalls former center Stephen Laton, was composed of young professional men like himself–until the teenagers signed up. The boys were hard-working, outgoing competitors. But their most striking feature, according to Laton, a 1970 graduate of North Carolina State University’s Wilson College of Textiles, was “they were almost impossible to tell apart—same body type, same haircut, slim, trim, good-looking boys. If I wanted to call one out on the court, I knew better than to say ‘Charles’ or ‘Thomas.’ I’d point and call, ‘Poston.’ Whichever one happened to look, I’d talk to him.”
Charles (left) and Thomas Poston have fond memories of NC State, pictured here
with a friend’s mom in front of Lee Hall during the West Campus Jam in 1982.
Little did the Poston boys realize at the time, but their people-oriented, small-town involvement with church, school and community built their confidence and set them on the path to successful careers in the textile industry, ultimately preparing them for their latest role, as philanthropists.
Recently, the twins, who turned 60 in May, established the Charles and Thomas Poston Endowed Scholarship Fund at the Wilson College in order to ensure that talented students of modest means would have the chance to study at their alma mater.
“For me, it’s about paying it forward,” says Thomas Poston, the younger twin by 45 minutes. And, he adds, “I’m bullish on the textile industry.”
The idea of an endowment arose during a casual conversation with North Carolina Textile Foundation Executive Director Michael Ward at a trade show in 2018. Thomas Poston recalls Ward as being “friendly, outgoing and polished. He was not pushy at all. He said, ‘Here’s an opportunity to work with the university.’”
After some serious huddling, the brothers decided to take the plunge. Relishing their new role as philanthropists, the brothers now steer friends and others to contribute to the endowment whenever a giving occasion arises. What’s more, Thomas and Debbie Poston, whose son Michael graduated from the Wilson College in 2010, recently decided to leave a bequest in their will to further build the endowment.
“As leaders, Charles and Thomas have a remarkable ability to connect with others,” says Ward. “Their support of student success at the Wilson College will impact lives for generations.”
No doubt, the brothers’ character and values can be traced to their high-minded, education-oriented parents. Their father, the late Fred Poston, was principal of the elementary school where their mother, Janice Poston, taught second grade. “Mom was always visiting sick people, writing letters, doing nice things for others,” recalls Thomas Poston.
The family had to scrimp and save to make ends meet, feeding and clothing the boys and their older sister, Jan. “Our parents were from the Depression era,” says Charles Poston. “They never spent money, never had a new car or house.” The boys had to work for their pocket money, once even doing yard work for Siler City’s most famous resident, the reclusive Frances Bavier (who played Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show). “She wrote us a check for $25,” says Charles Poston, remembering that as a sizable sum.
The Poston twins’ service ethic deepened when they arrived at the Wilson College as freshmen in 1978. Naturally, the brothers roomed together, taking up residence on the first floor of Lee Hall, where they stayed for four years. Within days, they were mingling with upperclassmen, professors and maintenance staff, and knocking themselves out to help girls move into their dorm rooms.
“The textile school was a tight-knit family inside a family,” recalls Charles Poston.
After his first semester, aware of their parents’ financial struggle paying for college, Thomas Poston approached Bill Smith, then head of student affairs. He asked if any jobs or scholarship money were available. A week later, Thomas Poston had his answer. On his behalf, Smith had approached an executive at the Hadley-Peoples Manufacturing Company in Siler City, who agreed to pay Thomas Poston’s tuition, room and books for the next seven semesters, provided he maintain a 2.0 GPA. Every semester, Thomas Poston recalls, a little money was left over, which he promptly “turned over to Dad to help with the bills.”
Smith’s work in securing that scholarship was something neither brother ever forgot. It also reinforced another important lesson: people open doors.
Charles Poston, for example, recalls getting his first job out of college at JP Stevens in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. The interview consisted of just one question: “Does Aunt Bee really live in Siler City?” Then the hiring manager said, “I’ve known you and your brother for four years. We’re looking for someone who feels comfortable talking to the plant manager, the executives and the person sweeping the floor. You fit that bill.”
In that same vein, upon graduation, Thomas Poston accepted a job as a high school recruiter for the Wilson College, working for Smith and his associate, Lennie Barton. He stayed for two years before joining the private sector.
Almost 40 years later, the brothers remain active in the industry. While they may have reached their professional pinnacles, they’re in no hurry to throw in the towel. Charles Poston, who lives in Jamestown, North Carolina with his wife Kathy, who also attended NC State, is market manager-textiles for Kluber Lubrication while Thomas Poston, who’s based in Hendersonville, North Carolina, serves as senior key account executive for the Surface Modification Technologies Division of Daikin America.
Even now, their education remains at the forefront. In his sales job for Daikin, which produces repellent for textile fabrics, Thomas Poston estimates that 75 percent of the people he works with are Wilson College grads, ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s. When he’s calling on a new prospect, his first move is to check out the NC State alumni directory. For example, he remembers having difficulty connecting with Southern Mills in Union City, Georgia. When he finally reached the company’s Michael Laton on the phone, it didn’t take long to realize they’d both studied at the Wilson College, both hailed from Siler City and that his former mentor, Stephen Laton, was none other than Michael Laton’s father. Thomas Poston recalls laughingly warning the younger Laton: “‘If you don’t call me back, I’m going to call your daddy.’” The gambit worked.
No doubt, the Poston twins have cut a memorable swath across the textile industry from the get-go, doing everything—if not quite in lockstep—then very much in sync.
“We talk every day,” says Charles Poston. “Often a couple of times a day.”
Are there any differences between the textile twins?
Well, Thomas Poston ponders: “I’m left-handed, and he’s right-handed.”
Anything else? There’s always hair, he adds.
“I part mine on the side now, and he parts his in the middle.”
It’s a Mayberry detail. But with a difference like that, Stephen Laton should finally be able to tell them apart!