Bill L. Harbert
Inducted in 2017
Throughout his career, Bill L. Harbert built structures across the globe and at home in Alabama, earning a reputation as a premier builder entrusted with highly-visible projects that changed the skyline and economies of the world.
Along with his legacy of impressive and expansive structures and developments, he founded what became B.L. Harbert International Construction, a rock in Birmingham’s construction industry that continues to shape the world.
Born in the Mississippi Delta, Harbert’s family moved to Birmingham when he was a child, and he later attended Auburn University, where his studies were interrupted by service in the United State Army during World War II. He graduated in 1948 from Auburn with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.
After graduation, he and his brother, John M. Harbert Jr., began careers as civil engineers. Their first job was building a community swimming pool. In 1949, the brothers and friend Ed Dixon formed Harbert Construction Corporation in Birmingham. Harbert served as executive vice president and managed the company’s construction operations, both internationally and domestically.
In Alabama, he oversaw the construction of the bulk of the modern Birmingham skyline with projects such as AmSouth Harbert Plaza and SouthTrust Tower, to name a few. He was also over Red Mountain Expressway, Riverchase Galleria and the Hoover Met Stadium. In Mobile, the company completed the Mobile Convention Center.
Harbert also had an eye for international work, pioneering opportunities worldwide such as many U.S. embassies whose design and construction stand as a representative of America abroad. From 1979 to 1990, Harbert served as the chief operating officer of Harbert International Inc., performing projects in South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. In all, he worked in 33 countries on 50 projects.
International projects included building silos next to the Red Sea in Egypt while simultaneously installing collector sewers and pump stations along the Suez Canal. Harbert drilled water wells and distribution pipelines to assist Ethiopian refugees following the civil war. He constructed waste water treatment plants in Puerto Rico, and coal facilities in Chile. Harbert built the base of the Kuala Lumpur City Centre, where the largest towers in the world stand. He was also entrusted with building the “upside-down” bridge in Costa Rica on the Pan-American Highway System. His reach through world-wide construction projects far exceeded expectations.
In 1991, he purchased the Harbert Corporations’s international operations, renaming it Bill Harbert International Construction Inc. He served as chairman and CEO until his retirement in 2000. The company continues in Birmingham with his son, Billy Harbert, at the helm. It still has an international and domestic presence.
Harbert, who passed away in 2010, was deeply involved in his profession and community. Among his many roles was president of the Pipe Line Contractors Association and member of the Construction Industry President’s Forum. He held position of director, first and second vice president with the International Pipe Line Contractors Association. He was also director of the Birmingham Metropolitan Development Board as well as the Birmingham Area Chamber of Commerce.
He is a 2000 inductee into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the Associated General Contractors Construction Hall of Fame in 2007.