Leroy McAbee, a native of Henagar, Alabama, is the oldest son of Homer Roy and Sarah Mae McAbee.
He attended school in Sylvania, where he graduated in 1949. After graduation, he served with the Army Combat Engineers in Korea from 1950 to 1952. After his discharge, he worked on various construction projects across the country, and eventually enrolled at The University of Alabama.
A year later he founded McAbee and Company, which began as a small mechanical contractor and engineering company. The company was incorporated in 1972 as McAbee Construction, Inc. Under McAbee’s leadership and with a team of dedicated employees, it has become one of the largest heavy industrial contractors in the Southeast. The company works in all types of manufacturing facilities performing piping, mechanical work, equipment erection, steel erection, concrete work, and other related jobs. McAbee’s firm has done construction work in all Southeastern states, various Midwestern states, and in New York and Washington. Industrial customers include those in power generation, chemical processes, pulp and paper, automotive, and many other manufacturing industries. Many clients are from the Fortune 500.
McAbee’s Fabrication Division, also located in Tuscaloosa, was formed as a small shop to service the construction division. It has grown into one of the largest fabrication shops in the Southeast, with more than 120,000 square feet of space, and has shipped its fabrication work into 35 states and 17 foreign countries. McAbee is certified by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and The National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors. Each organization closely scrutinizes companies authorized to fabricate and install pressure piping and pressure vessels and to repair boilers both in the field and in the shop.
Some of the company’s work involves both construction and fabrication and one project was most interesting. In 1966, when the United States and Russian governments had a joint project converting Intercontinental Ballistic Missile fuels into useful component chemicals, McAbee was called onto build three to his sister Doris, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1962. modular units, each of which could process 3,000 metric tons of ICBM fuel annually. An additional challenge was that the units had to be shipped to Siberia by rail through undersized tunnels. McAbee and his engineers and fabricators got busy in Tuscaloosa, built the units, disassembled them, shipped them to Utah for testing, brought them back to Tuscaloosa, and shipped them to Russia. McAbee personnel later supervised the erection in Siberia.
During the mid-70s and 80s, the company was heavily involved in the installation of turbine generators in power plants. McAbee himself designed, engineered, and built a one-of-a-kind oil flushing system for the new turbines, a creation that saved enormous man-hours.
McAbee has been instrumental in promoting good working relationships between labor and management. He has represented both sides during labor negotiations to obtain better training programs, better employee benefits, quality workmanship from the craftsmen and to initiate other programs that promote a good union/management relationship. In addition, he helped organize and served as president of the Tuscaloosa Joint Apprentice Committee of the Plumbers and Steamfitters, an organization for training young people to become journeymen in the welding, pipefitting, heating, and air conditioning industry. McAbee formed his company based on these principles:
Safety is first.
Quality of work is second.
A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay is third. Those principles were recognized in 1983 when McAbee Construction’s high standard of employment practices was awarded a certificate from the National Society of Professional Engineers.
McAbee acknowledges that his success and the guiding force in his life is his wife, Ruth. He has been married to the former Babe Ruth Barger, secretary/treasurer of the organization, for nearly 40 years. The couple lives in Tuscaloosa and has a son, two daughters, and six grandchildren. He also credits his brother Harold, superintendents, craftsmen, managers, engineers, and administrative personnel for his company’s success.
McAbee works closely with many organizations to promote West Alabama and bring industry and new business to the area. He was a member of the Select Committee to Study Public Education in Tuscaloosa charged with considering all aspects of public education in Tuscaloosa City and County School Systems and making recommendations for improvements.
He currently serves on the University of Alabama’s President’s Cabinet; the UA Capstone Engineering Society; the Board of Visitors of the Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration; the UA Alumni Association; is a National Council Representative, Black Warrior Council, Boy Scouts of America; Board of Directors, Park and Recreation Authority; Board of Directors, United Way of Tuscaloosa County; Board of Directors, DCH Foundation; National Society of Professional Engineers; Alabama Society of Professional Engineers; Advisory Board, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company; and Valley Head Chapter, Alabama Masonic Lodge.
He established the McAbee Foundation for the purpose of sponsoring scholarships for qualified students to attend the University of Alabama Engineering School.
He recently served as Chairman of the Public Library Oversight Committee which was created to develop a plan for facility improvement, repair, and expansion that would upgrade the current library to meet the same level as other libraries of its size and service responsibility. The committee findings were presented to the library funding agencies which resulted in the modernization program now in progress.
He was recognized as “Volunteer of the Year” in 1981 by the Park and Recreation Authority and was honored with the “Patron of the Arts” award in 1984 for his strong support of the Tuscaloosa Arts Council.
In 1986, he was named “Citizen of the Year” in Tuscaloosa.
He was selected as a “Distinguished Engineering Fellow” by UA College of Engineering in 1988, an honor bestowed upon individuals for the recognition they have brought to the University through their accomplishments and support. In February of 2003, he was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame for significant contributions to the advancement of engineering and technology and inspiring others to pursue challenging careers in all engineering fields.
In January of 1989, he was given the “Silver Beaver” award for his volunteer support to the Boy Scouts of America which is the highest volunteer honor awarded by this organization, and in 1992, the Black Warrior Council of the Boy Scouts of America named its new headquarters the Leroy McAbee Scout Service Center in his honor.
In May of 1991, he was presented the “Liberty Bell Award” by the Tuscaloosa County Bar Association for his promotion of a better understanding of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and a better appreciation of the Rules of Law.
In July of 1998, the Park and Recreation Authority recognized his service to the local community by naming the recreation center located at the Veteran’s Hospital the Leroy McAbee Sr. Activity Center.
He was honored by the Alexis de Tocqueville Society for his contributions to the United, Way in January 2001.
In April of 2002, he was one of seven honorees inducted into the Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame.