“I was born in 1935 in Walker County, one of the poorest counties in Alabama. My dad was a coal miner. He also worked at the sawmill. He built our house with the boards he carried home one at a time. That house is still standing.
There wasn’t much fun in our childhood because it was all work. We had a little farm. I slopped the hogs and milked the cows every morning before school, but I wasn’t good at milking. We stored the milk in the spring because it was the coldest place we had. It was a long walk to the spring to fetch the milk for meals. My grandad had a bigger farm with cotton and corn. We plowed his field with mules. Later I made a mailbox out of that plow. Dad died of black lung when he was 54 years old. Back then miners were blown up, burned, and crushed in the mines. There was no burial. The bodies stayed where they fell.
I graduated from high school and entered the Army as soon as possible. I went to Germany from 1954 to1956. There weren’t any jobs in Alabama when I returned, so I moved to Illinois for a job with Reynolds Aluminum. My congressman helped me transfer from the Reynolds plant in Illinois to their plant in Alabama. They sent me a telegram in 1961 telling me to come down. I became a union rep to care for the people I worked with.
I’ve always been a car nut. I’m known as ‘The Ford Man’ around Tuscumbia. My first car was a 1955 Ford. I have restored five cars from off the frame—stripping each car to the bare metal. Every nut, bolt and screw is as it was before the car was assembled. Even the radios work. I do all of the restoration but the painting. The paint and parts are getting more expensive and finding chrome is harder. I had a junk yard with 150 cars that I bought for parts. I would buy any ‘55 or ‘56 Ford if I could get a reasonable price. I bought them from all over the country. Some were rust buckets. I bought two Crown Victorias in Clarksdale, MS that had trees growing up through them. I am getting older and sold almost everything three years ago. I still have four fixed up cars and four junkers. I work on them every day. I just got a Starliner going that hadn’t run in over 25 years. Working on cars keeps me going. Looking at the finished car is a good feeling.
My favorite car is a 1956 Sunliner Crown Victoria with a continental kit. I’ve had my 1956 Ford convertible for 38 years and have driven it to 32 states and Canada. I drive all of my cars. They aren’t meant to be hauled on a trailer. Every car has a scarf hanging from the rearview mirror because my girlfriend always wore a scarf to match the car.
I turn 88 on November 10th. I’ve had prostate cancer for five years, but as long as there’s a Ford to restore, cancer isn’t stopping me. I’ve never made a hot rod, but this is a good time to start. I will do this for about 30 more years. Then I’m going to retire.”