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Business Icon Harold Higgerson Passes Away at Age 96

Fri July 08, 2011 - Southeast Edition
CEG


Harold Higgerson, pictured here at about the age of 75, was considered an icon in the industry by colleagues and competitors alike.
Harold Higgerson, pictured here at about the age of 75, was considered an icon in the industry by colleagues and competitors alike.

On April 11, 2011 L. Harold Higgerson passed away at the age of 96. His passing marked the end of an era in business where a man’s word was his bond and a contract was sealed with a handshake. In this modern-day hectic world of business, agreements are carefully worded by attorneys, and deals are worked out among parties using complex contract laws. This was not the case in the daily business dealings of Harold Higgerson, his brother Ivan, or his partner, Robert “Buc” Buchanan. Who could have predicted that during their association, a national dynasty would be born? By merging their futures and fortunes, each of the partners brought a unique sense of leadership and talent to the table that served as a complement to the others. This combined genius created a multimillion dollar business. Higgerson-Buchanan was incorporated in 1957 with the singular hard work of its founders and has provided a lasting legacy for future generations of their heirs. Their story needs to be told to serve as an example to all of what ethical behavior and honor among gentlemen can create, because Harold and Ivan Higgerson and Buc Buchanan were nothing if not hard working, ethical “gentlemen.”

Their story begins with an accidental meeting while they were honoring different contracts on the same job. The trio struck up an easy friendship and when the job came to a close, they agreed that there might be a future together for their business acumen and complementary gifts. Buc Buchanan first had to meet a prior obligation, so their plans were not put into immediate effect. Finally, when the time was right, Higgerson-Buchanan became an incorporated partnership and grew to become one of the largest construction companies on the East Coast of the United States. Their genius left an indelible mark on our country as they carefully crafted the landscape from Louisiana to the state of Maryland. But, beyond their notable accomplishments, it is the character of the man, Harold Higgerson, the president of Higgerson-Buchanan, who is the subject of this story.

From an Arkansas rice farmer during the depression earning twenty dollars a month, Harold advanced to a dollar a day while supporting his bride living in a tent and hiking six miles a day to his place of work. Undaunted by a difficult economy, in January of 1945, Harold had scrimped and saved the cash for his first International TD-9 bulldozer at a purchase price of $5,012.25. He was two months short of his goal to purchase this important piece of equipment by the age of thirty. By the end of that same year, he and Ivan managed to purchase other essential construction equipment and the cornerstone for a successful enterprise was laid and a legend was born.

Harold Higgerson was noted for his generosity, sense of humor, willingness to lend a helping hand and maintaining his humility at all costs. These qualities earned him the highest praise from his competitors and business associates. He was thus known as an icon in the construction industry and people sought his expertise and advice because they knew he would deliver the best of both.

He embraced his family, friends and employees with a caring heart and sense of generosity. Those who worked within his sphere of influence developed a profound reverence and respect for this extraordinary individual. Because of these qualities of character and a strong work ethic, he encouraged a sense of loyalty in those around him. He also was a teacher in the workplace and was famous for administering “quizzes” to his employees. He would ask pertinent questions to ensure that individuals were solving problems correctly and following the “Harold” plan of action. Before he asked the question, he knew the answer.

In closing a chapter on this uncanny character and business man, there is a last observation to be made about his intuitive style of estimating the cost of a job. Without benefit of a calculator, Mr. Harold could run figures in his mind and produce an estimate within cents of the actual cost. At the age of 95 with failing hearing, eyesight and physical strength, he could still mentally and quickly predict quantities and the cost of a potential contract. At 96, he continued to visit the office and job sites daily up until two months before his death. Such devotion made this gentleman a legacy in his own time.

(This story also can be found on Construction Equipment Guide’s Web site at www.constructionequipmentguide.com.) CEG