Edward Aubert Roberts

From cargo checker to the president of Waterman Steamship Corporation, founder of Southern Industries, the guiding spirit of modern Mobile's civic development.

Edward Aubert Roberts, a quiet force that shaped the city of Mobile, served not only Alabama, but the nation, with a modest spirit, never seeking recognition or reward.

Ed Roberts was the first employee of Waterman Steamship Corporation in Mobile, which was formed to cultivate opportunities for steamship navigation after World War I. Roberts, a Mobile native, attended University Military School and Auburn Polytechnic Institute, prior to becoming Waterman’s chief assistant. On the $125 a month salary of a cargo clerk, Roberts began his career, and his efficiency won him steady promotions that led to becoming president of the company in 1936. During World War II, Roberts headed the largest privately owned steamship line in the nation, operating a fleet of 125 ships. Roberts personally served as an advisor to the director-general of the War Shipping Administration, a position for which he was awarded a Certificate of Merit from President Harry S. Truman. After the war, Roberts served without pay to develop a multi-million-dollar post-war expansion program. In recognition of his services, the Mobile Civitan Club named him the first recipient of its Man-of-the-Year Award in 1948. Roberts also served as a member of the Business Advisory Council of the U.S. Department of Commerce. He also founded another business empire, Southern Industries, which under Roberts’ leadership grew from $1.9 million in total assets in 1946 to more than $28 million in 1964.