A good number of you know or know about John Harbert, and know that it all began with a roll of the dice on a troop ship returning home at the end of the war.
He used his winnings to buy a concrete mixer and begin a one-man construction business. In 1949 he got his first project, a five-span bridge that he built with borrowed money and war surplus equipment. It still stands in Autauga County.
Since then Harbert Construction has built bridges, highways, dams and reservoirs, and grown the company into an international player in real estate, mining, oil and gas. His jobs stretch from Europe to Africa, and from the Middle East to South America. And Birmingham, of course, where he built the Red Mountain Expressway, Riverchase and the AmSouth/Harbert Plaza.
He is a member of the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame, and has been honored by many other groups, too many to mention.
A 1946 graduate in civil engineering, he has been honored by Auburn as an outstanding alumnus as well. At the dedication of Harbert Engineering Center he had the opportunity to meet with some of our brightest engineering students – and he joked that he was glad that he came to Auburn when he did . . . that he was afraid he could no longer make the cut.
Nothing, of course, is farther from the truth, but his comments reflect the humility that this great man had – and the center he was helping to dedicate, his desire to give back, to forge the next generation of careers.
His imprint on Alabama will never be forgotten.