Two generations ago, Harold’s father and his four brothers founded a highway construction business called Newell Brothers Construction. They were prime contractors in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Mississippi, building many thousand miles of roads.
Harold worked for them in many capacities, thus beginning his interest and love for building highways and carrying on the family legacy of highway construction.
Harold was born May 6, 1912 to William Samuel Newell and Carrie Mosley Newell, in Hope Hull, Alabama. They moved to Birmingham when he was five, where he attended Glen Iris Grammar School, and graduated from Phillips High School in 1930.
Harold was employed by his father’s road building company and held other part-time jobs while working his way through college. He attended Birmingham Southern and Georgia Tech.
In 1938 he graduated from Birmingham Southern College with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering, and went to work for Swan Chemical Company in Birmingham. His job was to try to help find a shatterproof windshield for cars.
He later returned to his father’s construction business building roads in South Carolina.
In 1943 he went to work for Pan American Airways as an engineer building runways for airports in South America.
Returning home in 1945 with the money he had earned, he and his brother started Newell Brothers Construction Company in Hope Hull, Alabama. They purchased Army surplus equipment and started by building ponds, small roads and did site grading.
In 1946, he married Jimmie Louise Jacks, and they became parents of two sons, Jack and Lee, who gave them six grandchildren. Jack, Lee and Robert Cumbee now operate the construction business.
Harold became an active member of the Alabama Road Builders Association and in 1957 served as President.
In 1958, Newell Roadbuilders, Inc., also located in Hope Hull, was formed by Harold. In the beginning, the company’s main contracts were small highway projects with the Alabama Highway Department.
When President Eisenhower introduced the interstate highway system, Newell Roadbuilders, of which Harold was President, received several large contracts for work in Alabama, Georgia and Florida. As a result, he was responsible for hundreds of miles of interstate and secondary roads being built.
In 1992, he suffered a heart attack which required open heart surgery at UAB in Birmingham. The doctors installed an experimental pacemaker-defibrillator device, which enabled him to lead a slower, but normal life.
On August 16, 1996 at the age of 84, he died of heart failure.
Harold wanted his legacy to be that he had done something for mankind, and that was fulfilled as Alabamians and all Americans took advantage of the interstate highway system he had helped build.
He was known by his employees and business associates as an honest and fair man. His handshake was his bond.