Yazoo River Towing launches new tugboat

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 15, 2014

The christening of the M/V BIG J.O. went off without a hitch Tuesday afternoon at City Front in Vicksburg. Patrick Smith and his brother James Oldrum “Lil J.O.” Smith III smashed a couple bottles of champagne on the boat and officially placed it into service. A crowd of over 300 people, including family and friends, came to see what the newest tugboat of the Yazoo River Towing fleet looked like. 

Patrick Smith, left, and his brother James Oldrum “Lil J.O.” Smith III christen the tugboat M/V BIG J.O. and officially placed it into service.

Patrick Smith, left, and his brother James Oldrum “Lil J.O.” Smith III christen the tugboat M/V BIG J.O. and officially placed it into service.

The M/V BIG J.O. was recently delivered to the Yazoo River Towing Company. It was named after one of the co-founders of Yazoo River Towing, James Oldrum Smith Jr., of Vicksburg. Smith was affectionately known as “Big J.O.” along the inland river system where he kept his fingers in numerous business ventures, partnerships and towing companies.

New South Marine out of Greenville built the M/V BIG J.O. The boat is manned by a 10-person crew and weighs in at 712 gross tons. He is 38 feet wide, 130 feet long, equipped with two Caterpillar engines producing 4260 horsepower with Kort nozzles and Reintjes gears. The last tugboat added to the Yazoo River Towing fleet was in the 1980s.

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“Present, one of the most technologically advanced boats on the river named after the least technologically advanced operator ever to operate on the river system.” said Tim Hovas, of New South Marine, during the dedication, about James O. Smith Jr. the boats namesake.

The M/V BIG J.O.

The M/V BIG J.O.

Big J.O. was born and raised in Greenville. Smith was a graduate of Tennessee Military Institute and Mississippi State University. His river career began when he moved to Vicksburg in 1968 to manage E.J. Platte Fisheries Inc. His river industry career expanded to include principal interests in Smith Towing Inc., Yazoo River Towing Inc., Ole Man River Towing Inc., Big River Ship Builders and Salvage Inc., Beavers Diesel Inc., Limestone Products Inc., Bay City Towing Inc., Mississippi Hardware Inc., Vicksburg Insurance Agency Inc., and Krystal Restaurant of Vicksburg. He was also the founder of River City Honda. Smith continued his work until his death in August 2006.

“We have had numerous tragedies to happen, but through it all, Patrick, Lil J.O. and I have persevered to continue the legacy that their father started,” said Teresa White one of the co-owners of Yazoo River Towing Inc. “This is the reason for us being here today. They have continued to use that same foresight that their dad instilled in them to see that this company grows by building this new towboat and naming it in memory of their dad. I think Big J.O. would be proud.”