R.G. LeTourneau mural|Unveiling marks near-completion of project

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 16, 2009

It’s 31 down and one more to go. On Friday morning, the next-to-the-last downtown mural — honoring R.G. LeTourneau — was unveiled at City Front.

“We are feeling exuberant,” said Nellie Caldwell, head of the Riverfront Mural Committee.

The final unveiling — of the mural depicting Jitney-Jungle — will be at 10 a.m. May 29. A reception to celebrate the completion of the murals project will follow.

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Sponsored by C.H. and Jo Wilson Jr. and friends of LeTourneau, who died in 1969, the R.G. LeTourneau mural depicts the village off U.S. 61 South that LeTourneau built for his employees in the 1950s. The mural shows a row of homes, a  grocery store and the big, yellow arch that reads “R.G. LeTourneau Inc.” and still stands today.

C.H. Wilson was master of ceremony, and Mayor Laurence Leyens opened with a few words. E.C. Loflin, retired head of engineering for LeTourneau, was guest speaker. He retired in 1992, after 46 years and, since, has done consulting work for the company.

Loflin, who joined the company as the first engineer with a degree in 1946 shortly after being discharged from the military, said the two things he remembers most about LeTourneau were “he was the hardest worker I ever knew” and “he was a Christian witness.”

Loflin also said LeTourneau was a genius at what he did — but he had his ups and downs, which were mainly caused by him “pushing the envelope.”

LeTourneau had gotten his start in Stockton, Calif., building some of the most innovative earth-moving machinery of the day. He brought with him Wilson’s father, Clyde Wilson Sr.; and Eddie Florell, who was responsible for the construction of the LeTourneau arch. The Vicksburg plant opened in the 1940s and, for a time, produced artillery shells. In time, LeTourneau left the earth-moving business and began working on jackup drill rigs.

In 1946, LeTourneau and his wife, Evelyn, founded LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas, a Christian school with an emphasis on engineering and business education.

The downtown murals project has spanned eight years, and each have been painted by Louisiana artist Robert Dafford.


Contact Manivanh Chanprasith at mchan@vicksburgpost.com