Richard Dale True was a national pioneer in the catfish industry. Already in charge of dairy and cotton operations, True worked with business partners C.O. Stephens and Bryant Allen to start the country’s first commercial catfish hatchery, STRAL Company, in 1961. What began as a part-time enterprise soon developed into a full-time career.
By 1964, True was traveling to the Mississippi Delta to train other row-crop farmers in raising catfish. In November 1966, he and business partner Joe Glover Sr. started STRAL Processing, the country’s first commercial catfish processing company. After the company’s launch, True and his colleagues quickly adapted and developed new technologies to create a faster, more efficient processing system, which enabled the industry to grow more quickly.
STRAL Processing opened a new plant in Greensboro, Alabama, in 1968, with True as its first plant manager. The plant was sold to ConAgra Foods in 1969, and True moved to Mississippi to manage three more processing plants. He returned to Greensboro in 1975 to manage Country Fresh Processing. True retired in 1980. In the years since, his innovations have led to a national industry that now processes more than 330 million pounds of catfish annually.
In addition to his work as an entrepreneur and processing innovator, True was a member of the Citizens Bank board of directors, an elder at the Newbern Presbyterian Church, a member of the American Legion and Greensboro Rotary Club, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and a loyal supporter of the Boy Scouts of America. He attended Auburn University from 1949 to 1951.
True passed away in 2008. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Stella Byars. He is survived by his wife, Charlotte Stewart True; daughter, Frances True Sullivan; son, Todd Dale True, and stepsons, Rodney James and Joel James.