Florence Zacks Melton (November 6, 1911 – February 8, 2007) was an American inventor known for innovating the foam-soled and washable slipper.
Melton grew up in Philadelphia in an extremely poor family. She worked at a local Woolworth's from age 13 in order to support her family. She married her first husband, Aaron Zacks, when she was 19, and subsequently moved to Columbus, Ohio, where he worked as a merchandiser for a department store.
Melton served on the Board of United Way (then the Red Feather Agency) and with the Red Cross Nutrition Corps. In the 1970s, she became the first woman to serve on the board of the Huntington National Bank and was a founding member of CAJE (the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education).
Melton co-founded the R.G. Barry Corporation in 1946 with Zacks. While investigating foam latex as a possible material for her patented women's shoulder pad, she discovered that she could use the material to line slippers. Marketed first as Angel Treads and later as Dearfoams, Melton's slippers were immediately successful. More than 1 billion slippers have been sold, according to the company.
Before her death, she served as a consultant for Product Development and Design. Her son, author and speaker Gordon Zacks, served as the CEO of the company. He died on Feb. 1, 2014. Another son, Barry Zacks, founded the Max & Erma's restaurant chain in 1972, taking it public. He died in 1990.
In 1968, Melton married industrialist and philanthropist Samuel M. Melton. Together, they created the "Florence Melton Adult Mini-School," a two-year, non-denominational program, which operates in over 70 North American communities and Australia.
In the mid 1980s Melton initiated the "Discovery" program, which attempts to connect youths to their family ancestry, community, different denominations in Judaism, and to Israel. The program involves extensive field trips and culminates in a tour to Israel.
Melton was the founder of the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School, a pluralistic adult learning program to enable adults to gain Jewish literacy through a broad and deep curriculum created by scholars and educators at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Melton schools all over the globe from Sydney, Australia to Portland, Oregon continue the legacy.
- Miller, Stephen (2007-02-13). "Florence Zack Melton, 95, Invented Foam Slippers" (Obituary). New York Sun.
- "Awards: Florence Zacks Melton". webpage. The National Foundation for Jewish Culture.
- "Obituary: Gordon B. Zacks". webpage. PRNewswire.
- Melissa Kossler Dutton (2007-02-21). "Florence Melton, Jewish education activist passes away at age 95" (Obituary). The New Standard. Columbus, OH.