Sam McGee passes
It is with great sadness that we announce that Samuel Alexander McGee of McGee Brothers Company, Monroe, North Carolina passed away Wednesday evening. Sam was the leader and President of the company he helped to form in 1971, he has been the articulate visionary who proved to be the catalyst for much of the innovative success McGee Brothers Company achieved.
Sam was born on March 7, 1939 at his parents home in Unionville, North Carolina into a farming family of six brothers and three sisters. In high school, he excelled in baseball and often used sports analogies when talking to young folks about careers in masonry. In his senior year, he scored the only run in his high school’s championship baseball game.
After graduating, Sam took a part-time job with the Western Auto Company while waiting to begin work for another firm that hired him right out of school. He proved to be very good at the job and the district manager convinced him to stay on. At age 19, Western Auto moved him to Jacksonville, Florida to be the office manager for the company’s largest store east of the Mississippi. Three years later, his success in Jacksonville resulted in his transfer to Asheville, North Carolina to become the General Manager of a store that was slated to close because of poor performance. The store remained open.
Sam continued to gain management experience working as a manager for National Cash Register (NCR) during the mid-sixties. In 1969, Sam saw opportunity in the construction industry and went to work for Huntley Brothers Masonry, a firm managed by his brother-in-law, Clete Huntley. From there, he went to work for his brother Bill who also had a masonry company. In 1971, concerned that no one was teaching him how to lay brick, Sam hired his brother Don from Huntley Brothers to begin a new company. Don was the only brick mason in the new masonry contracting firm. Don made a deal with Sam: “If you’ll teach me how to sell, I’ll teach you how to lay brick.” Don told Sam that convincing him to leave his job to work for Sam proved that Sam must be the greatest salesman in the world. At that point, they became partners in McGee Brothers Company. Sam managed the new company while he learned the trade. By 1980, Bill, Harry, Lee and Mike McGee and the Huntley Brothers, Clete, Dwayne and Theron, had all become a part of the McGee Brothers Company.
The McGee-Huntley tie was more than business however. Sam, his brother Don, and his sister Lib married two Huntley sisters (Midge and Gladys) and a Huntley brother (Clete.) “Family” has always played a huge role in the success of the company.
McGee Brothers Company would evolve into one of the most successful masonry contracting firms in the nation and for years, would top ENR News and Masonry Construction’s list of the country’s largest mason contractors. Specializing in residential masonry in the booming Charlotte market, the company pioneered one-stop, turnkey masonry installation, adding a level of professionalism in appearance and performance that was rare in the industry at that time. A mission statement evolved: “To bring professionalism and orderliness to our industry. To make it simple, pleasant and affordable to do business with us. To enable our employees to learn, progress, and earn in proportion to their contribution.”
Sam and McGee Brothers have always been promoters not just of the product, but also of masonry careers. Nephew Travis McGee still holds the world’s record for brick laying from a competition some twenty-years ago in Texas. Two McGee Brothers employees (now both “in-laws”) have won the SPEC MIX BRICKLAYER 500 three times between them. Numerous company employees and former employees are state and national bricklaying champions. Sam was a regular at high schools and career events promoting masonry to young people and to their parents. As part of that effort, the company has raised standards of professionalism to the point that Sam told people that, in his community, dads and moms aspire for their daughters to marry brick masons, not just doctors and lawyers.
Sam began flying airplanes in the early sixties and would use his Aeronca Chief to commute from his job in Asheville to the farm at home in Union County, landing in a cow pasture located there. Employees use the planes to commute to branch offices in Greensboro, North Carolina, Greenville and Columbia, South Carolina. Sam himself was an FAA “Commercial Flight Instructor Instrument Rated” (CFIIR.)
Sam had traveled the country promoting masonry and speaking on behalf of the industry. As he says, people love to hear a success story. He was always glad to share the McGee Brothers story with fellow masons and to help upcoming masons to succeed, even potential competitors. He truly believes that anything he can do to help the industry ultimately was in the best interest of us all. Sam and McGee Brothers constantly provided their equipment and facilities for masonry competitions, industry training, construction association meetings and tours.
In the summer of 2012, The National Masonry Instructors Association inducted him into their own “Hall-of-Fame.” In January of 2014, the MCAA inducted him into the Masonry Hall of Fame.
Sam and Midge (Mildred) McGee had been married for over fifty years. They have four daughters and a son, and lots of grandchildren. The family will receive today from 2:00 until 4:00 at the True Light Church, with a funeral to follow at 4:30 at the church. Address: 8614 True Light Church Road, Mint Hill, 28227-4500. The masonry industry will truly miss one of our leaders in Sam McGee.
About the Author
Jeff Buczkiewicz is the President and CEO of the Mason Contractors Association of America. Jeff has worked in the masonry industry for several years as the Executive Vice President of the Building Stone Institute and the Director of Marketing and Membership for the Mason Contractors Association of America. Jeff has also served as Secretary on the Board of the Natural Stone Council and is a former Board Member of the StonExpo Federation.