John L. Murphree was born in 1913 at Sycamore Landing on the Tennessee River in Humphreys County, Tenn.
He was raised in nearby Bakerville, Tenn. and graduated from Bakerville High School in 1929.
His first job after high school was as a farm hand, and after three years of looking at the back side of a mule, he realized that his future should go in a different direction.
He was fortunate during Great Depression times to find a job with the Humphreys County Road Department as a laborer, and later became a supervisor over crews cutting rights of way, grading new roads and maintaining existing roads. Thus began his life long association with road building.
A few years later, his experience in road construction was put to use in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the early years of the New Deal.
After his time with the WPA, he joined the Tennessee State Highway Department as a supervisor in charge of construction and maintenance crews, and he continued to hone his skills in construction as well as in leadership.
In 1941, he made a transition to the private sector when he was hired by Oman Construction Company, a large and well established heavy-highway contractor in Nashville, Tenn. At Oman, his skills in road building and his leadership ability were quickly recognized, and he was soon made a project superintendent.
In 1943, he was drafted into the Army and served in the Corps of Engineers.
After he was discharged from the Army in 1945, he resumed his employment at Oman. During the time he worked for Oman he built highway projects in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.
Through a partnership between Oman and Couch Construction Company of Dothan, Ala., Murphree became involved with Couch as the two companies worked together on many projects. I
n 1949, he was offered an opportunity to start a full-time career with Couch as its general superintendent. This opportunity allowed him to be part of the transformation of Couch into a major road building contractor and materials producer in the Southeast. His previous experience in road building added new dimensions and expertise to the Couch organization.
In November, 1959, Couch Construction Company was stunned at the tragic deaths of majority owner Quin Flowers, Sr. and company engineer, Claude McEachin, in an automobile accident. Murphree was pressed into the position of providing stability and cohesion as the fledgling owners struggled to lead the company through the challenging time.
During his career at Couch, Murphree continued to demonstrate his expertise in road building, and he became proficient in the manufacture and placement of hot mix asphalt. He was totally dedicated to his company and its employees and to his industry. He also developed as a manager, being later made vice president in charge of all operations.
He was a gifted leader of men and a mentor to those he led. Many who worked for him went on to have outstanding careers in highway construction. He demanded from them production, loyalty, and dedication. These concepts were reinforced by occasional reprimands delivered by way of his car radio, an experience feared by all employees. He also gave them his full support and gained their highest level of respect and admiration.
Murphree was highly regarded and recognized throughout the Alabama Highway Department. Project engineers, division engineers and highway directors held him in high esteem not only because of his experience, expertise and ability, but also because of his character. Ray Bass was instrumental in naming a section of US 84 through Dothan the John L. Murphree Boulevard in his honor.
Murphree was also deeply involved in his community. His dedication to his church, the Chamber of Commerce and his civic work was recognized and honored. He was an elder of the Park Avenue Church of Christ in Dothan, a seasoned Kiwanian, and an advocate for the developmentally disabled.
In 1980, the Rotary Club of Dothan awarded him their greatest honor, The Paul Harris Award, an honor magnified by the fact that at the time he was not a Rotarian.
He was also dedicated to his wife and family. He and his wife, Sarah, were married for 54 years. Together they raised six children.
After more than 40 years in road construction, he retired from Couch and returned to Tennessee where he continued his civic work and advocacy for the developmentally disabled as he improved and maintained the property on which he settled. In February of 1988, John L. Murphree, a tireless worker and peerless road builder, passed from this life leaving behind a lasting legacy of dedicated service.