James Madison . . . 55 Years at Tyler Pipe and Counting
March 25, 2014
We were pleased to learn that Tyler Pipe’s James Madison is celebrating 55 years of service! Tyler team member Rod Burrus interviewed Mr. Madison for an article in their monthly newsletter and asked him why he had stayed at Tyler Pipe for 55 years, to which he replied, “I guess I just like what I’m doing. Every morning for the last 55 years I got out of bed and came to work, I never really thought about how long I would be here.”
Rod asked him how he came to work at Tyler Pipe back in 1959 and this is his story, in his own words:
It was early in the summer of 1959 and me and three of my friends were out riding in a car and we decided that we needed to find some work. The first stop we made was out at Western Foundry. There were all of these big guys out there pushing iron and we didn’t like it much so we came on down the road to Tyler Pipe. We just drove up and looked inside the foundry. Everything was open back then and you could walk right up and see where they were pouring iron. There was this fellow named Jack Sheffield and he interviewed us right there on the spot and out of four of us he offered two of us a job. Mr. Sheffield said he sure needed us to come to work and so we started right then and there, I didn’t even get to go home. I called my Mama from the office and told her that I got a job and would be home some time. They put us to work immediately and my buddy Jasper, he told me he couldn’t deal with it so at lunch time he was gone.
They put me on the pigging machine. Used to we would pig our own iron because if there was still iron running at shift change we could start up the pig machine and that iron would just run off into it. I was using a pick to drop those pigs out of the machine and it was hot. John Warner, President of Tyler Pipe came up there and said, “You‘ve been at it for quite a while, have you had a break?” I told him no, I hadn’t had a break so he told me to go take a 45 minute break and he rolled up his sleeves and started knocking those pigs for 45 minutes until I got back. Well evidently Mr. Warner talked to my supervisor because I never missed a lunch again.
I guess some of my best memories are running that cupola bucket. Those were the good old days and these folks out here are like extended family. My supervisor at one time was J.W. Buckner, and for some reason Mr. Buckner called me Muscle. I’ve been known as Junior, Puny, Muscle, Jivin Horse Man and Hoss which is what they call me now. There are people that have worked with me for years and I never knew their real name. My wife called out here one time and asked for James Madison and they didn’t know who she was talking about. She said, “They call him Junior,” and they came and got me immediately. Melvin Hampton was the Lemon Drop Kid and Wayne Walker was called the Mayor and Joe Wilson was called City Man. Mr. Madison mentioned numerous names like Turner Morris or lead belly, Uncle Roy, Leroy Anderson, Chester Moon, TC Porter and Big George Richardson. They were all good friends, just like family. When asked about the future Mr. Madison said that he intended to keep working as long as his health would let him. I talked to an awful lot of guys that retired. They had nothing to do. I need a reason to wake up in the morning, someplace to go.
Every day James Madison arrives at Tyler Pipe between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m. depending on the day of the week. He takes his lunch and his coffee and heads up the flight of stairs to the crane at the Cupola. He says he takes everything up there because it’s too far to come down. Mr. Madison has sure come a long way since he and his three friends went for a drive in the summer of 1959.
Tyler Pipe is honored and proud to still have Mr. Madison as a member of the team and appreciates his 55 years of service! In fact, they are marking the month of May as MADISON MONTH and plan to hold a celebration in his honor.