Rita Barber, Inc. is recognized as one of the oldest tribute fashion companies in the nation. The company’s roots can be traced back to 1927, when Rita Barber found herself widowed with an infant son to care for.
Working as a bookkeeper and secretary with a funeral home in Stamford, Texas, Mrs. Barber soon noticed the inferior quality of tribute fashion offered to bereaved families. The clothing was devoid of color, beauty, and style. In those days the old burial shroud was still accepted for the simple reason nothing else was available.
After convincing her boss to allow her to make some more attractive clothing, she designed and produced several negligees and gown type dresses which promptly sold. Shortly thereafter, a funeral supply salesman offered to buy material for her to make dresses, which his company would sell. In 1928, Mrs. Barber filled her first “big” order, and the business was launched.
In 1934, she moved her family and business to Abilene, Texas. After serving in World War II and graduating from Texas A&M University, Mrs. Barber’s son, Harwell, joined the business. Harwell’s duties included directing the marketing and sales operations throughout the nation, while Mrs. Barber continued to create designs and styles until her death in 1988.
In 1989, Harwell’s son-in-law, Lee Hampton, joined the company as a sales representative for Texas. Lee was no stranger to the funeral industry, having previously served as Executive Director for the Texas Funeral Directors Association.
The business moved into a modern facility with more than 30,000 square feet in 1991. The need to expand resulted in part from the decision in 1988 to begin producing a line of men’s suits. Men’s suits had been available through the company for many years, however, it was decided that Rita Barber, Inc. would offer a men’s line of tribute fashions which was equal in quality and workmanship to the women’s line. As a result, the company experienced a tremendous annual sales growth in the men’s suits.
Rita Barber also offers its funeral home customers a wide range of accessory products which include: undergarments, hankies, scarves, gloves, jewelry bags, stoles, shoes, rosaries, and crucifixes. These products enable the funeral director to provide a range of dignified options to the families, so together they can create a beautiful and meaningful tribute for their loved ones.
Today Rita Barber, Inc. has approximately 17 talented and dedicated employees, several of whom have been with the company for many years. Key officers and board members include: Harwell Barber, Chairman of the Board, Lee Hampton, President and CEO; Joy Tichenor, Vice President and office manager; and Bob Williams, controller.
Additionally, the company has about 15 sales representatives who maintain personal relationships with Rita Barber’s customers, and numerous distributors who represent the company’s products.
Tribute fashions from Rita Barber, Inc. compliments both the individual and the casket selection and is available in contemporary and traditional styles. Rita Barber continues to offer a wide selection of styles, fabrics and colors, thus making it possible to order any style dress in almost any color the customer desires. Rita Barber goes the extra mile to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of the customer, so a family’s last memory of a loved one is a beautiful one.