Though born in the farming community of Lambert, Mississippi, Paul found his vocational calling among the abundant brown dirt, black coal and yellow iron of central and north Alabama.
Shortly after finishing high school, he began working for his uncle J.D. Pittman, at his Birmingham-based Caterpillar Tractor dealership in 1941. In doing so, he had the good fortune to find an occupation that was a near perfect fit for his talents and energy.
World War II interrupted Paul’s business career briefly. He enlisted with the Army Air Corp and trained as a fighter pilot. He joined the 7th Fighter Command, in the Pacific until the end of the war.
After the war, Paul returned to work for his uncle’s Caterpillar dealership. In 1957, J.D. Pittman Tractor became Thompson Tractor and Paul stayed on with the new company, where he remained until his retirement in 1991.
Paul was tough and demanding – yet fair with employees. He had close relationships with most of his customers, be they contractors or miners.
He had creative, innovative ideas to meet the ever-changing market conditions. Whether it was adding second shifts in parts and service, expanding inventory to meet special needs or lobbying with Caterpillar to enact needed changes to machinery design or distribution, Paul was always looking out for the customer. He helped to pioneer the “Total Cost” concept by marketing the entire package of machinery and dealer service.
Paul’s keen intellect and intense scrutiny at every level of business, served him and Thompson Tractor well.
And just as important, these personal attributes were balanced by an engaging personality and a warm-hearted humor that made him – after the day’s work was done of course – a pleasure to know.