S T Bunn Sr.
S T Bunn, Sr. was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1917. Tragically, his mother died when he was five years old and he lived with different aunts and uncles until his adolescent years. Bunn dropped out of school in the fourth grade and started doing odd jobs to help support himself. One such job was sweeping floors at Central Foundry in Holt, Alabama, a suburb of Tuscaloosa.
In 1937 he borrowed enough money to buy a used dump truck. S T married Irene Hocutt in 1938 and bought his second dump truck the same year. In the early years he would haul anything he could. For instance, he used to buy coal in Brookwood and haul it to places like Camden and Linden and sell it door to door and then buy watermelons and bring them back to Tuscaloosa and sell them door to door.
When the United States entered World War II he secured some defense contracts to haul raw material, and do some site preparation work throughout the duration of the war. One such contract was with Central Foundry, which was making mortar shells; the very same place he had swept floors as a child.
After the war, Bunn turned to road construction to keep his fleet of six or eight trucks busy. In 1946 he bought an asphalt distributor, which changed the course of his life from a trucker to a contractor. In the late 1940’s he started paving city streets with cold mix that he received by rail from Birmingham and New Orleans.
Work for a road contractor was not as plentiful then as now. Bunn did just about everything to stay busy. His construction company graded sites, laid pipe, built catch basins, curb and gutter work. He even moved a house once, but asphalt work was his true love and thus that was the direction the company went. The farm to market road program brought base and surface treatment work in the fifties and sixties. Highway construction certainly represented a major portion of his work, but he also was involved in commercial and residential projects.
In 1971, Bunn purchased his first asphalt plant. Competition for asphalt work was fierce in those days as there were as many as four asphalt plants in Tuscaloosa at one time. Bunn continued to grow and by the time he retired, another asphalt plant was added. He was a pioneer in the design of permeable asphalt, a design he came up with to use under Monsanto’s permeable Astroturf and then used by them in other areas of the country.
He sold his construction business to his two sons, Terry and Sonny in 1981 lending advice and demanding quality work because as he told his sons often, "That’s still my name on those truck doors". Mr. Bunn left a legacy of not worrying about being the biggest asphalt company, just the very best one in West Alabama. He was well known for his quality of work, honesty and being a man of his word. He did a tremendous amount of work on just a handshake. He had a quick wit and sometimes a quick temper. With his trademark handshake with only two fingers on his hand, he had the vision to see himself being successful even when he was sweeping floors at the age of ten. He came a long way from one old Ford dump truck that he used to say he drove all day and worked on all night, to the largest asphalt company in West Alabama when he retired.
The Bunn BrothersSonny (S T, Jr) Bunn Terry Bunn
Brothers, trusted business partners, community builders: Sonny (S T, Jr) and Terry Bunn are two of a kind.
Individually, each stands tall in support of good causes that matter deeply - programs that benefit children, promote quality education, health, and recreation. Together, the Bunns share fundamental personal values and a rock-solid work ethic that forms the cornerstone of their long-standing professional success.
As a matter of fact, we have the Bunn brothers to thank every day when smooth ribbons of highway transport us safely from place to place. Whether transcontinental traffic on the new Corridor X or the pounding cleats of Crimson Tide football players across the practice field, the Bunns were there first - building the foundation, setting the course, smoothing our path.
Large or small, every project is undertaken with the same intensity and commitment to quality that was instilled in them by their father. With that legacy as their guiding light, Sonny and Terry have taken the elder Bunn’s vision to levels of achievement that were only a dream back in the 1930’s when the company got its start.
The Bunn brothers worked side by side with their father from as far back as they can remember. As they like to say, "We don’t know when we quit playing and started working." Moving the family out to a comfortable wooded compound in Cottondale, their father bought just about every four-legged creature he could find: chickens, cows, ducks, turkeys, goats, you name it! Sonny and Terry were responsible for feeding the menagerie, so their days started early. After the barnyard chores were finished, the boys earned the priviledge of going to work with their dad. From day one, dump trucks were in their blood. Their responsibility grew as they became teens, then young adults. So when Sonny and Terry had the opportunity to buy the businesses in 1981, there was no question about it. The Bunn name would endure in an industry poised to contribute to the most dynamic era of economic growth in Alabama’s history.
Although they followed in their father’s footsteps, there was also no question that the two men would earn their college degrees after graduating from Holt High School. Sonny received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from The University of Alabama in 1971. Terry graduated five years later with a degree in business from Livingston University, now the University of West Alabama.
In typical Bunn fashion, those degrees became just the beginning of lifelong affiliations with their respective alma maters. Sonny was named a Fellow of the UA College of Engineering’s Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, and serves on the College’s Leadership Board. He holds the designation of Fellow among those he cherishes most.
In 1990 Terry achieved a pinnacle of personal success when he was elected to the Board of Trustees of the University of West Alabama. A past Board chairman, he has helped guide the governing body with a steady hand and a strong business perspective. In 2002 Terry was named to the Board of Trustees at Samford University. As you would imagine, higher education figures prominently in the brothers’ philanthropic interests. Both academics and athletic programs are the fortunate beneficiaries of their generosity.
When it comes to the division of labor between them, the explanation is simple. Terry is responsible for making the asphalt, and Sonny is in charge of laying it. So it comes as no surprise that both have risen to prominence in leadership roles with industry associations. 2008 might be the first time in history that brothers are simultaneously serving as elected presidents of their respective state organizations. Sonny heads the Alabama Roadbuilders Association, and Terry does likewise for the Alabama Asphalt Association.
With five asphalt plants and two rock quarries the company has grown exponetially in the 28 years that Sonny and Terry have been at the helm. Although the holdings are large and complex, the fundamental business ethic has not changed from the start. In their words, "Our philosophy is to give a client a fair price and always stick by our word."