TAMKO Celebrates Tom King’s 43 Years of Service

On June 23, 2016, TAMKO Building Products, Inc. held a retirement party to honor Tom King, who spent 43 years working at TAMKO. The retirement party was held at the Corporate Offices in Joplin, Missouri.

King’s tenure at TAMKO was longer than any current employee, with the exception of Chairman of the Board Ethelmae Craig Humphreys. During King’s career at TAMKO, he managed three TAMKO plants, served as Vice President of Manufacturing for nearly a decade, and served another decade as Senior Vice President of Best Practices, during which he was responsible for determining the best practices at each location and standardizing those practices throughout the company.

King was at the wheel for some of the company’s most notable periods of expansion, such as the additions of the Columbus, Kansas and Ennis, Texas plants, the installation of the four-wide laminator at the Frederick, Maryland plant and the strategic implementation of the company’s anti-tampering and automation projects.

“Tom King has been one of the most influential manufacturing minds in TAMKO’s history,” said TAMKO President and CEO David Humphreys. “His expertise and wisdom will be missed.”

When reminiscing about his time with TAMKO, King recalls a time when his career was almost cut short by a minor oversight. While working as an engineer at the High Street plant, King was responsible for expanding the plant’s parking lot. He developed a plan and got a local contractor to make room for the expansion by removing trees and an old log cabin from the property. Jay Humphreys, then TAMKO’s President and CEO, returned from lunch one day and made the contractor stop his work.

“Jay found me and asked, ‘What are you doing?!?’” King said. “I told him about the project and he said, ‘Well, that’s all well and good, but that’s not our property.’ I got out a magnifying glass and looked at the property map and sure enough, we were demolishing one of the neighbors’ property.”

More than 40 years later, King can’t help but laugh at the situation. In fact, it’s become one of his favorite memories about his time with TAMKO. The property was actually owned by a woman who lived in Kansas City, explained King. Jay Humphreys went to meet with her to explain the situation and made a deal to buy the land.

“In the end, he told me, ‘I probably need to thank you, Tom – I got that land for a good price,’” King said.

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The Founding of TAMKO Building Products

TAMKO Building Products has been providing quality commercial and residential building products for more than 70 years. What started as a small roofing business in a streetcar barn in Joplin, Missouri has expanded into a national manufacturing company with plants, warehouses and offices located nationwide. The company now produces a variety of building products, including roofing products, decking and railing products, waterproofing, cements, and coatings. Read on to learn about the company’s founding.

TAMKO was founded by E.L. Craig in 1944. Prior to the company’s founding, Craig co-founded a roofing business in Kansas City, Missouri with Otto J. Lehrack in the mid-1930s. The partners began operations in 1937. While the first year was a troubled one, Craig did not let things like corrupt politics, his partner’s lack of know-how, and personality conflicts get in the way of his business. However, later on, the business partners split. Craig retained ownership of the Kansas City plant, and Lehrack went on to Joplin to found another roofing business.

Lehrack’s company lacked the equipment it needed to begin operations. His health declined, and he passed away on September 3, 1941. The unfinished roofing plant was passed on to his son, who was going to sell it to the Allied Materials Company of Oklahoma. Instead, Craig purchased the Joplin plant and sold his share of the Kansas City roofing operation to his business partner, Jimmy Williams.

Craig put up one-third of the capital for the Joplin plant and invited two others to invest with him. In March of 1944, the three became the owners of Lehrack Asphalt Roofs Inc. The company was renamed TAMKO, a more suitable name thought up by Craig’s wife Mary Ethel. TAMKO is an acronym for the five states where the company anticipated doing business— Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma. On September 5, 1944, the name was officially changed to TAMKO Asphalt Products, Inc.

The company began its operations at the plant on High Street on March 19, 1945. It employed 35 people when it first opened but already had plans to employ up to 75. By 1946, the company wanted to expand and purchased the small Joe Jones Refinery on the corner of Newman and Rangeline Roads in Joplin, which would produce asphalt for the company’s High Street plan. From there, the company continued to grow and become one of the largest privately-owned manufacturers of building products in the country.

Learn all about TAMKO’s history, visit www.tamko.com.

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