Leroy McAbee Sr.
Selfless Benefactor Isn’t Lonely at the Top
Inducted in 2003
Starting out in construction, Leroy McAbee Sr. had a high school education, a love for hard work, and an ethics grounded in the Golden Rule. He has long since made it “to the top,” in business and civic life. There, his unflagging concern and respect for those he leads is repaid in gratitude and affection; for, working his way up in the world, he remembered to bring others with him.
Listing Mr. McAbee’s accomplishments isn’t hard — a native of Henagar in Dekalb County, Alabama, he freely serves diverse citizens in every imaginable capacity. Many contributions are rendered anonymously, but many also are actively acknowledged by recipients: news editorials, halls of fame, even public buildings salute his vision, generosity, and commitment for the long haul.
Mr. McAbee left The University of Alabama in 1962 with a B.S. in mechanical engineering. His studies built on two years’ service with the combat engineers in Korea and experience garnered on various construction jobs as he worked to pay tuition. In 1963, he formed a small construction and engineering company named McAbee & Company concentrating on industrial and mechanical systems. Forty years later, he and his wife are still active in the business. Industrial customers include those in power generation, chemical processes, pulp and paper, automotive, and many other manufacturing industries. Many clients are in the Fortune 500.
In 1996, the U.S. and Russian governments had a joint project of converting ICBM fuels into useful component chemicals. McAbee’s role was to build three modular units, each to process 3,000 metric tons of ICBM propellant annually. The need to transport them in Siberia by rail line — undersized tunnels and all — further challenged McAbee engineers and Mr. McAbee personally. This project was built in Tuscaloosa, disassembled, taken to Utah to the test facilities, re-erected, tested, returned to Tuscaloosa, and shipped to Russia. McAbee personnel later supervised the erection in Siberia.
McAbee Construction is an able turnkey contractor for virtually any construction project. The Fabrication Division, once a small shop fulfilling McAbee’s own construction needs, today requires 120,000 square feet and is certified by ASME and the National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors.
Mr. McAbee follows this principle: “Safety is first, quality of work second, and a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay third.” McAbee’s accident reporting is eighty percent below average, thanks to a full-time safety staff. The firm’s employment practices have earned an NSPE commendation. Mr. McAbee has led unions and construction management through negotiations for better training, benefits, and workmanship. He created the McAbee Construction Foundation to provide engineering scholarships, and the Joint Apprentice Committee of the Plumbers and Steamfitters to produce journeymen in mechanical trades. Mr. McAbee honors employees’ personal concerns by donating company time and equipment to causes close to their hearts.
His own causes include the UA College of Engineering, Boy Scouts of America (BSA), Tuscaloosa Park and Recreation Authority, YMCA, United Way, DCH Medical Center, West Alabama Chamber of Commerce, Tuscaloosa’s Riverfront Public-Private Partnership, and the National Society of Professional Engineers. It’s impossible to catalogue here all his affiliations or leadership posts or awards, but among them are UA Distinguished Engineering Fellow, Tuscaloosa County Citizen of the Year, Scouting’s Silver Beaver Award, Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award, and presidential appointment to U.S. Selective Service Board. A BSA headquarters and new recreation center are named for him, and, saluting his unfailing service, the Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame recently included him among its 22 inductees.
Mr. McAbee is married to Babe Ruth Barger McAbee. She and Mr. McAbee’s late brother Harold worked with him in establishing McAbee & Company. His wife has been secretary/treasurer of McAbee operations for nearly forty years and he feels that she has been the guiding force in his success. Mr. and Mrs. McAbee live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and have a son, two daughters, and five grandchildren.