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.

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