John Malcolm McInnis, Sr. was born in Clio, Alabama in 1914. He was named after his grandfather, Malcolm McInnis, who served with the South in the War Between the States. The name John comes from his uncle, John Lang McInnis, who farmed and owned a cotton gin in Clio.
After weathering the tough years of the Great Depression, his first big move from the rural life of Barbour County was courtesy of the United States government, when he was drafted into the Army after Pearl Harbor.
He served in the Artillery, reaching the rank of Chief Warrant Officer, and barely endured the cold and frightening Battle of the Bulge. His Company was pinned down for days, and only two members of his unit survived. During his time in the Artillery, he became proficient in map reading, engineering, surveying and construction.
After the War, John returned home to Clio. During the Interstate Construction Era, he contracted to move houses off the condemned rights of way.
Later, he joined the Barbour County Road Department and was on several local construction projects. He became acquainted with the various road and bridge contractors while working in Barbour County and was chosen to be the Project inspector on Hack Jordan’s first bridge job. He then became the Assistant County Engineer of Barbour County in 1947.
John had married Lucille Riley in 1946. They had three children – Charles, John and Tim.
In 1956, while C.F. Halstead was working on a job in Barbour County, John joined them and moved to Montgomery, opening Halstead’s Bridge Division in 1959. John moved his family to Montgomery in June of 1960. For the next 10 years, John and Halstead were involved in constructing major road and bridge, interchange and interstate projects during the Interstate Era of the Sixties.
By 1970, all the boys had completed high school so John felt that he could take a chance and start his own business. At age 58, he and W.S. Newell became partners and founded NewMc, Inc.
For the next 15 years, NewMc, Inc. built many remarkable projects. Of the many hundreds of projects completed are the US 11 bridge over the Tombigbee Waterway in Epes, AL and the joint venture of Mobile Interstate Pile Drivers (MIPD) as a subcontractor to Brown & Root on I-65 as it crossed the Mobile River Delta. MIPD, which included NewMc, Jordan Pile Driving, and Gulf City Construction, built the cofferdams, drove the piling and placed the substructure concrete on the 7 mile stretch across the Tensaw River, Middle River and Little Lizard Lake. All of the work was from barges and Hurricane Frederick played havoc with all the floating equipment while it passed through in 1979.
In 1985, John purchased his partner’s interest and in 1989 the company changed the corporate name to McInnis Corporation. His wife Lucille worked side by side with him at NewMc, Inc. as Secretary/Treasurer and she performed the same duties at McInnis Corporation and was also instrumental in the success of the business.
John was also joined by his sons, John, Jr. and Tim as well as his trusted employee and friend Spencer Morgan. Under John’s leadership and drive, the company built hundreds of road, bridge, utility and military projects in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Georgia.
John spent as much time in the field as possible and loved to “push a job” toward completion looking after every detail. He visited every job weekly, arriving at the jobsite at work time no matter what time he had to leave driving from Montgomery. He made it a point to communicate with every man on the job during his visit.
John usually got to the office around 3 o’clock every morning only after he had stopped at the Montgomery Advertiser building to pick up his newspaper off the conveyor. He was on the job or at the office nearly seven days a week where he exhibited his mental and physical toughness.
John had a work ethic that was remarkable. If you knew John McInnis, you knew that he was uncompromising when it came to hard work and a quality project. He was demanding of his employees, but he had a “big heart”, when they were in need.
John passed away in 1996. During his life, he made a significant contribution to Alabama’s road building history.
His company, McInnis, LLC survives him and flourishes today, led by his sons and their fellow employees, who are still inspired by John McInnis and his outstanding toughness, drive and leadership.