North Carolina People, Places, and Things-January 14
I am the dad to five adult children. As they were growing up I attempted to remind them they were special and to implore them to learn something new. My goal was to do that daily.
In 2016 my goal is to learn something new daily on the people, places, and things that make North Carolina special.
In my career as a college coach and now as university administrator I always love to hear leaders personal stories. Those stories almost always include some obstacle or challenge that the leader had to overcome in their life. Those successes validate a point for me that environment may influence your future but it doesn’t determine it. People are capable of overcoming negative external factors. I saw it this past week watching Clemson play Alabama and got to know about Clemson Head Football Coach Dabo Swinney story of a childhood with an abusive alcoholic father.
I also have been impressed with the success story of a Robeson County, NC native named Malcom McLean who was born in Maxton, NC in 1914. McLean was actually born with his name being Malcolm but changed it to Malcom to adhere to a more authentic Scottish spelling.
He finished high school during The Depression and in 1935 with a used truck he started a trucking company called McLean Trucking with his sister Clara McLean and brother Jim McLean. His resourcefulness enabled him to expand to thirty trucks by 1940, and he was eventually able to sell McLean Trucking, a $12 million company with over 1700 trucks, by the mid-1950s.
His years in the transportation business showed McLean the need for an easier method of shipping goods. He had watched dock workers unloading goods from trucks and transferring them to ships, and marveled at the inefficiency of the process. That inefficiency generate his idea and invention of container shipping.
One of the early containers
In 1955, he gambled big on a container venture, buying two oil tankers and securing a bank loan to buy $42 million worth of docking, shipbuilding, and repair facilities. He called his new company Sea-Land.
He refitted the ships and designed trailers to stack below or on the decks. In April 1956, his first container ship, the Ideal X, departed Port Newark, New Jersey, headed for Houston. Ironically the ship was often referred to as the USS Maxton in reference to his birthplace.
McLean’s cargo shipped faster and cheaper, because loading and unloading were shortened at each end of the voyage. The sealed cargo reduced the pilfering that went on at various stages of the cargo’s journey and also reduced the labor required.
Nearly every imported consumer good imaginable owes its lower price to the container revolution. McLean sold Sea-Land for $160 million in 1969. He died in 2001 and is recognized as one of the most innovative people in the history of world transportation.
Not bad for a truck driver who was born in Maxton, NC and grew up in The Depression. People can overcome their environment.