Sometimes remembering is a warm, fuzzy feeling, but remembering can be painful. Consumers today are seeing the effects of a shortage of truckers in empty shelves. Government regulation, rising gas prices, and people’s misconceptions about the trucking industry have contributed to problems not so different from problems of the past.
Floyd and Beasley is one of those businesses from the past that is gone, not entirely from circumstances of its own making. It is a business missed by this area because its economic impact and the people involved in it were a big part of life here and especially in Sycamore where the home- terminal was located. A company that at one time employed some 400 people and had a $11.5 million payroll leaves a lasting impact on any industry and area when it simply goes away.
Cecil R. Floyd began operating a trucking company in the early 1930’s . It was called the C.R. Floyd Company. The business started with one or two trucks, and he asked his brother-in-law, Jule Beasley, to go in with him. Jule started driving a school bus when he was just sixteen, so he was all in. He had driven a dump truck and worked in a CCC camp. Now, they hauled old cotton and old box mill from Avondale in Sycamore and lots of ice that was used in the water barrels of the powder plant in Childersburg.
In 1944 Floyd partnered with Jule Beasley to purchase another small trucking company, Hilyer and Handley Transfer Company, and began operating as a common carrier for hire under the name Floyd and Beasley Transfer Company. That original fleet was three trucks and a small office operating out of an old service station and garage at Sycamore, Alabama.
Sylacauga writer and historian, Gertrude Tyson wrote in the Daily Home on October 13, 1984, “The story of Floyd and Beasley is a wonderful American success story. Two Men had a dream…they were willing to work hard and give good service to carry out that dream.” They were friends and they shared family ties. Those early days were lean and they put everything they made back into the business.
Their wives, Edna Beasley (Jule) and Gertrude Floyd (Cecil), were sisters. Family was scattered throughout the business. These sisters were Barnetts and Erris Barnett, who later became Vice President and general manager of Floyd and Beasley, and Robert Barnett, who was Vice President in charge of maintenance were their first cousins. Jule Beasley said in an interview later that the secret to so many family members working together in one business is putting people in positions which they are capable of running successfully, not just putting someone in an unearned position just because they are family. In this business brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandchildren, and in-laws worked side by side and stayed with the company for decades. Both men treated other employees fairly, too. Jule Beasley said, “We hire people to keep and not to fire. I think it’s a good policy, especially because we’re non-union, and I like to be close to the employees.”
Jule Beasley who became President and CEO after Cecil Floyd passed away worked with Executive Vice-President Gertrude Floyd, Cecil Floyd’s widow, and with Erris Barnett, Vice President and General Manager. Robert Barnett was Vice President in charge of Maintenance and his wife, Dean, was an important part of the office staff. Floyd and Beasley specialized in the hauling of textiles. That original fleet was just three trucks, but according to Yolande Beasley Gardner, one of Jule and Edna’s five children the business grossed $44,000 that first year. That was big money. By 1958, the gross revenue was $1,600,000, there were 150 employees and a payroll of $650,000. They were operating in AL, GA, SC, and TN.
The company moved from their rented quarters to a terminal on Highway 21 in 1950, expanding their ownership to 42 acres. In 1953 it was incorporated with Cecil Floyd and Jule Beasley as owners. Cecil Floyd died in 1966, and Beasley took over as President. According to Gertrude Tyson of the Daily Home (October 13, 1984) they installed a truck-trailer washer at the headquarters to improve safety and have cleaner vehicles on the road. Tyson said, “As recently as spring of this year 48 new tractors and 100 new trailers were purchased by this progressive company, representing a $4.8 million investment.” They handled general freight, but a large portion of their business was involved with the textile industry.
The company was recognized by the Alabama Trucking Association for their distinguished service to the trucking industry. A featured article in Trucker magazine at its 1983 convention honored the company with insights into its success. “Floyd and Beasley has nine terminals operating in 10 southeastern states. It handles 21 million pounds of freight per week, and it all began on a shoestring.”
Anyone who worked there Including Jule’s son, Ken Beasley, once terminal manager in Sycamore, remembers most fondly the people of both families and the close family ties that built this company. “Almost everybody there was related to everybody else in some fashion, “ said an article in Alabama Trucker. The company shut down in 2010 during a recession, sky-rocketing gas prices,and one of their top customers filing for bankruptcy as well. Jeff Floyd, Cecil Floyd’s grandson, did what he could to assist the 118 employees who were still working to find jobs.
It was a sad day for this area, but the memory of that great company and the people who established it, lives on in the hearts of all of us who live in this area. The descendants of Cecil Floyd and Jule Beasley are still contributing, each in his special way, to following their hearts to make a life and not just a living. These children and grandchildren each day remember Cecil Floyd and Jule Beasley and a day when Floyd and Beasley was a household name in a sleepy little town called Sycamore , and not so long ago at that.
Special thanks to Ken Beasley and Alabama Truckers Magazine, B.B. Comer Library newspaper archives Ray McDiarmid, and Cecile Lovvorn.