Willis J. Milner III was born in 1914 in Atlanta, Georgia. As a young man in his 20’s, he worked in the electrical industry for General Electric Supply in Tampa, Florida. In 1942, at the age of 28, his strong love of country prompted him to join the military. Lieutenant Willis J. Milner III proudly served in the Twelfth Regiment of the United States Fourth Division, was on hand for the landings at the Battle of Normandy on D-Day, and was subsequently promoted to U.S. Army Captain. After his service ended in 1945, he was awarded a Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal, Victory Medal, and Honorable Service Lapel Button.
Driven by a strong entrepreneurial spirit, in 1946 after his homecoming from the war, Willis decided to leverage his well-established industry relationships to form W.J. Milner & Company, Electrical Manufacturers Representatives based out of Atlanta, Georgia with his territory covering the southeastern United States. His vision was to become a formidable leader in the electrical industry representing only world-class electrical manufacturers.
Willis III diligently applied his unique philosophy of success through relationships to his business model and quickly became abundantly prosperous. After spending almost two decades growing his manufacturers’ market share, he decided he needed a change of scenery. Willis had always raved about the beautiful weather in Florida and, he reveled in the idea of raising his six children in the sunshine state. As a result, in 1965 Willis and his lovely wife, Jean Sullivan Milner, decided to sell the Atlanta-based operation to Bill Whitcomb of Whit-Shaw and put down roots in Orlando, Florida.
Willis had an enthusiastic and highly optimistic work ethic. It did not take him long to dominate the electrical industry in Florida and build rock-solid relationships. One of his most cherished relationships was with Roy Richards from Southwire, a company that would revolutionize the industry with the invention of the SCR® system. After years of successfully growing the Southwire business, Roy made Willis an offer he couldn’t refuse: to exclusively represent the Southwire brand in Florida. This commitment from Southwire helped to catapult W. J. Milner & Company into a powerhouse agency, eventually expanding to five warehouses supported by the latest technologies available, including the first car phones on the market, and an impressive line card containing the most sought after manufacturers in the electrical industry.
Although Willis was consumed with growing the business, he never lost sight of life’s greatest blessing, his family. He relished working with his sons, Willis J. Milner IV and John G. Milner. He took enormous pride and great pleasure in witnessing their transformation into young men who mirrored his values, beliefs, and work ethics. He envisioned his sons carrying on his mission and groomed them accordingly.
Sadly, and all too soon, Willis III passed away in 1977 at age 62. But his legacy lived on in his sons. Willis J. Milner IV at the young age of 22 was thrust into the leadership role of W.J. Milner & Company. Willis IV was fortunate to have the help of his two uncles, Seixas and Gene, who dedicated themselves to assisting him with the transition for a little over a year. As head of the company, Willis IV had a great deal of weight on his shoulders and realized the full meaning of his father’s words: “Knowing and doing are two different things. Strive to do –and the knowing will be easy.” Willis IV spent the next twelve years following this principle and not only continued in his father’s footsteps but surpassed goals that had been set by increasing sales and gaining market share.
In 1989, Willis IV and his brother John had an innovative idea to expand W. J. Milner & Company’s portfolio by diving into the specification side of the business. With this goal in mind, the two brothers acquired Glenn Associates owned by Floyd Blair. This decision proved to be highly profitable, further increasing revenues and strengthening their long-standing relationships.
Continuing on their path of growth and expansion, in 1997 Willis IV negotiated a merger with the widely recognized and highly respected Florida-based manufacturer representative agency Clement-Kinzel owned by Robin Clement and Bruce Kinzel. It was at this exciting time that the company name became United Electrical Sales (UES).
In 2017, Willis IV and John decided to return to where it began for their father in 1946: Atlanta, Georgia. John arranged to acquire the renowned Electrical Products, Inc. (EPI) agency owned by two legendary brothers, Bill and Gene Brooks. United Electrical Sales of Georgia (UESGA) was formed and two very talented electrical industry superstars, Christopher Bogie and Katie Hartsfield, were brought in as partners.
Just as Willis III did when he was at the helm of the company over four decades ago, Willis IV and John are always looking ahead and preparing for the future. Some of those preparations include ensuring United Electrical Sales has a strategic succession plan in place. Taking that into account, it has been their practice to acquire top talent in key positions who, in addition to being the best at what they do, bring fresh ideas, drive innovation, and provide access to new networks. In November of 2020, Willis IV and John welcomed three highly accomplished and long-standing UES employees as partners: Stacy Guthrie, Tim Scheerer, and Garrette Flowers. Their combined proven expertise and high enthusiasm will further strengthen our mission for generations to come.
January 2021 started with a big bang for United Electrical Sales. We acquired Farmer Electrical Sales, Inc. in Greensboro, North Carolina. This acquisition further expanded our territory to now include North and South Carolina. We also broadened the Carolinas line card to contain the Atkore Raceway Package. Also, in 2021 we celebrate seventy-five years of representing top-tier electrical manufacturers. As we commemorate this milestone, we realize now more than ever, our past says everything about our future. What started as a one-man agency has grown into a large-scale and highly respected business employing over seventy-five individuals who have never lost sight of the importance of cultivating long-term relationships built on trust, integrity, hard work, and enjoying the ride together. All of us at United Electrical Sales look forward to the future and another 75 years of making connections and powering results.