Bland, who was 88, founded reclining furniture company Action Industries in 1970 with Mickey Holliman.
“He’s the reason why I moved to Mississippi,” said Guy Lipscomb, CEO of Pontotoc-based furniture manufacturer Southern Motion. “He was a wonderful man. I would put him and (Benchcraft and Albany Industries founder) Hugh McLarty among the top legends of the industry.”
Lipscomb worked for Bland 14 years.
“He was very professional, a first-class guy,” Lipscomb said.
In 1972, Action merged with Lane Furniture Industries. In 1987, Furniture Brands International acquired the company.
Bland was inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame in 2001. He was credited with developing the mechanism used in Action’s motion furniture, helping pave the way for the company’s success.
“He was very smart, very knowledgeable,” said Ken Pruett, president of the Mississippi Furniture Association. “He was the production man and he knew about furniture. The industry has lost one of its true pioneers. He was a man of integrity, and we’ve lost a legend.”
Jim Sneed, CEO of Affordable Furniture, said he never worked for or with Bland, but did attend church with him. He also knew him through working in the industry.
“I knew him probably 50 years,” Sneed said. “He was a great furniture pioneer, a great person, and he’ll be sorely missed.”
Bland began his career working with another pioneer, Morris Futorian, who established the upholstered furniture industry in Northeast Mississippi in the late 1940s.
Hassell Franklin, the CEO of Franklin Corp. in Houston, founded his company a few months before Bland and Holliman founded Action.
“We never were bitter competitors,” Franklin said. “We were always friendly. He had a respect for my company and I had respect for his.
“He was a very astute businessman, a great family man, and he did a lot for the community. ... he was a real people person and he knew how to put the right people in the right places. We’ll miss him.”
Services will be Friday at 11 a.m at First United Methodist Church. Visitation is Thursday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at W.E. Pegues Funeral Home.