The John Ownbey Company’s birth is a compelling history of the dawn of military contract manufacturing in the United States. It all starts with the “Godfather” of military manufacturing in the 1940s and 50s, Herman “Breezy” Wynn. Herman Wynn was educated at the University of Tennessee. He was a star fullback for the Volunteers. After graduation, he opened an athletic equipment company, The Southern Athletic Company. They were primarily involved in developing and manufacturing a new, lighter type of sports apparel. He eventually grew his athletics company into a manufacturing giant. One of his many manufacturing plants was located in Knoxville, TN. This complex was known as Appalachian Mills Industrial Center.
When World War II began, Wynn turned his boundless energy and jacket making skills to manufacturing for the war effort. He produced duffle bags, jackets, and winter coats among other items. When the war was over he scaled back manufacturing for the army and went back primarily to producing commercial apparel. Due to Wynn’s operational size, he had plenty of manufacturing room to lease out to other apparel companies. This is how the Wynn Confederation was created. This was a closely connected group of Department of Defense contractors, mostly based in Knoxville, TN. They worked together and collaborated on contracts and manufacturing, helping each other out with specs, design and production. In addition to the John Ownbey Co., other Wynn Confederation companies included most of the government manufacturers of that era, including Alpha Industries, Wynn Industries, Greenbrier, Dobbs and more. This association was coordinated by Herman Wynn. The Wynn Confederation helped many of the dominating military manufacturers get their start.
A member of the Wynn Confederation, The John Ownbey Company was one of the primary manufacturers of many of the more iconic elements of military outerwear. This includes the well-known army M-65 field jacket, as well as the Air Force version, the MA-1 flight jacket, flight suit coveralls, and more. They manufactured these items on their own, and subcontracting for others, such as Alpha Industires for close to three decades.
Due to government regulation changes in the 1980s, the close relationship of the Wynn Confederation companies was no longer possible, resulting in many of the companies stopping government production, and some actually going out of business.
The John Ownbey Company is being restored to its roots with the reputation for quality and design that dates back over sixty years. The current product line retains the original commitment to top quality military style items.