Brenda Semmes Wood, 65, of Montgomery, Ala., passed away on Dec. 22.
J.M. Wood Auction Co. Inc. — a 40-year-old Montgomery, Ala., fixture that’s now among the largest auction firms in the country — lost its beloved leader, Brenda Wood, on Dec. 22.
A Montgomery native (and great-great-granddaughter of Confederate Admiral Raphael Semmes) Mrs. Wood graduated from Sidney Lanier High School and earned a home economics degree at Auburn before she met her husband, the late Malcolm Wood. He had grown up in west Montgomery, selling produce door-to-door for his family farm, which raised fruit, vegetables and cattle.
Together the pair founded J.M. Wood. Mrs. Wood handled the books and the office while her husband hit the road to meet contractors and farmers to see what equipment they needed for jobs and to see what they wanted to sell or trade.
An unexpected turn of events came about that would not only affect the company but the Wood household, as well. At an auction in Georgia in 1989, Mr. Wood started complaining of pains, and soon after he was diagnosed with an advanced form of colon cancer. A mere six months later, at 46 years of age, Mr. Wood passed away.
Mrs. Wood was faced with one of the hardest decisions of her life. What was she to do with the company and employees who had been with them for years?
Before Mr. Wood passed away, he urged her to give up the auction business. But as she told it, he knew that she was stubborn and wouldn’t take his advice, so he instructed her to put $50,000 of their life’s savings into the business. He told her, “If you lose it, walk away.”
Mrs. Wood’s contributions paid off. Today J.M. Wood is the fourth largest privately owned machinery auction company in the United States. It auctions heavy machinery at permanent facilities in Montgomery and in Columbia, S.C. and handles on-site auctions for the Alabama Department of Transportation and many other DOT and government agencies across the Southeast.
Mrs. Wood is survived by her long-time companion William Roger North; Children: Kimberly Wood Cox, Bryant Semmes Wood, Ruston Ryan Wood Sr. and Robin Alexander Wood; Grandchildren: Shelby, Sarah Beth, and Aubrey Cox, Katie Brooke and Lauren Wood, Ruston and Watson Wood.
This article was written by Christina M. Caldwell and published in Business Alabama. It has been edited for republishing in CEG.