COLUMBUS, Miss. – Thomas Scott Berry, who led case goods manufacturer Johnston Tombigbee and founded importer T.S. Berry Sales, died here among his family on Sept. 7 at age 67.
The second son of Charles and Lounora Berry, Berry lived his whole life in Columbus. He and his family were lifelong members at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. After graduating from Stephen D. Lee High School in 1971, Berry studied at Southern Miss and Mississippi State universities before joining his family’s business, Johnston Tombigbee, where he developed his aptitude and love for sales and travel.
When JTB fell into hard times and shut its doors, he and his brother Reau developed a business plan and secured the financing to reopen the company and resume furniture manufacturing operations, providing as many as 1,000 jobs and contributing to the strength of the local community.
His entrepreneurial spirit and love for traveling helped him to cultivate his understanding of the import/export furniture business, through which he later began a new company, T.S. Berry Sales. Berry’s business travels took him across the world to Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, China, India, Russia and Vietnam. A chance encounter in a Shanghai hotel in 1994 led to a cover story in the Business section of The New York Times featuring Berry and his innovative import ideas.
Following his career in furniture, Berry set his sights on a local project: the development of the abandoned Lee High School into a mixed-use building. Over the last few years of his life, Berry successfully transformed the classrooms of his alma mater into unique and modern apartments. His vision for other spaces in the project included an event venue in the auditorium and a restaurant in the former cafeteria.
Berry is survived by his wife, Ruth Taylor Berry, his father, three brothers, two daughters and six grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the George “Happy” Irby Christmas Fund, P.O. Box 9292, Columbus, Miss. 39705.