Billy Smith Wilson was born October 8, 1917. He grew up in Equality, Alabama.
One of Billy’s first jobs was working with his father Grady Smith Wilson, who was a warden with the Alabama Highway Department at their convict camps. In those days, State prisoners were used to build and maintain State roads.
In 1939, Billy was a part of the State’s first road paving crew. They began in Fort Payne and worked their way south. He became a highly skilled paving machine and heavy equipment operator. These jobs were the beginning of a career that lasted almost sixty years.
1948, Billy used his construction experience as a basis for starting his own contracting business. He and his brother, Pat Wilson, formed a partnership called Wilson Brothers Construction Company. Over the years the partnership grew and became successful as they began bidding on larger municipal, county and state jobs.
Mr. Billy was a frugal manager, many times working quietly behind the scenes, yet managing with a hands-on-style that reflected his attention to detail. Having a well-maintained shop and doing timely equipment maintenance was his watch-word. He was a great believer in using profits to fund growth, rather than borrowing so much money, especially in the early years.
His insistence on a sensible business model probably contributed as much as anything else they did to ensure long term financial success. Mr. Billy always took pride in the fact that their contracting license was one of the earliest numbers around.
Pat Wilson, Jr., a University of Alabama graduate in civil engineering, joined Wilson Brothers after a few years of valuable experience with the State of Tennessee Highway Department. Pat’s expertise, work ethic and experience greatly assisted the company in growing into a state-wide contractor.
Billy had a very strong desire to be successful. In order to reach that goal, he knew they had to be profitable while doing quality work. Wilson Brothers succeeded in both of those areas. But, his measure of success did not stop there.
To Billy, one of the most rewarding parts of doing business was being able to give opportunities to people to improve themselves by having meaningful careers in construction. He loved being part of giving families a shot at a better life. Touching testimonials from many employees are treasured in the hearts and minds of the Wilson families.
Employee loyalty and longevity at Wilson Brothers contributed greatly to the company’s success. Billy, Pat, Sr., and Pat, Jr. were known to be fair and honest with their work force. They had the reputation for being “a good place to work”.
Wilson Brother’s success had a lot to do with sharp minds and sharp pencils, but they gained many loyal customers as a result of being known as an outfit that did good work and stood behind what they did.
Their work included all phases of highway construction, farm to market roads, major highway sub contracting, concrete work, streets, curbs & gutter work for county and city governments, private development shopping centers and industrial plant site work. Wilson Brothers purchased their own asphalt plant and erected it in Childersburg.
To have the respect of one’s customers and peers was one of Wilson Brother’s goals. They always worked diligently to maintain and protect those values. Hard work, honesty and integrity were as much a part of their business as the skills they developed.
Wilson Brothers was a good community citizen. They participated in community projects, such as providing lowboys for the Childersburg Homecoming and Christmas Parades. They donated land for the new Childersburg Middle School and high school.
Mr. Billy was a charter member of the Childersburg Chamber of Commerce and was inducted into the Chamber Hall of Fame. He is a 50 year Mason, a member of First Baptist Church of Childersburg, served on the Board of Directors of First Federal Savings and Loan Association in Sylacauga, served on the Childersburg Water, Sewer and Gas Board. He was contributor to many local civic projects such as the historic Kymulga Grist Mill, and the Butler, Harris, Rainwater House. He was a member of the Kiwanis Club and a member of the Heritage Committee.
Mr. Billy’s time spent with his customers and suppliers are special to him. Those ties have remained strong over the years and even into retirement. His association with you, the members and staff of the Alabama Road Builders Association has meant much to him over the years.
In nominating Mr. Billy for the ARBA Hall of Fame, his grandson, Lee R. Henderson said, “He has been instrumental in the development and growth of the City of Childersburg, Talladega County and the State of Alabama”. His special qualities and his life have been an inspiration to me, his family and all who have been privileged to know him.