From Whence We Came
By Roy L. Murphy
April 26, 2000
Possibly, there are many Mid-South employees who do not know the origin and history of the formation of Mid-South Engineering Company. There are seven present employees and three former Mid-South employees who know the story very well.
In 1949, I was hired by Dierks Lumber & Coal Company, whose name was changed shortly thereafter to Dierks Forests, Inc., to be a Special Projects Engineer with offices at the Mountain Pine mill. At that time, the engineering department consisted of a chief engineer, a project engineer, and two draftsmen. A mechanical engineer was also hired in 1949. We reported to Fred M. Dierks, who was the vice president in charge of engineering. His primary interest was the development of the company facilities to make full use of the 1.8 million acres of timberland owned by the company.
After a few years of training, the decision was made to develop a full engineering staff that could handle all of the company projects without the need of consulting engineers (such as Mid-South). Other than a small paper mill built in Pine Bluff that used Rust Engineering, no consulting engineers were used throughout the development of Dierks’ facilities that included modernization of the three sawmills, a window manufacturing plant, a paper mill, a multi-wall bag plant, a grocery bag plant, an insulation board mill, a gypsum wall board plant and development of the largest pressure treating plant in the United States.
As time went on, we developed a full engineering group of approximately 25 people that included all the engineering disciplines.
The present Mid-South employees who worked for Dierks Forests besides myself were Larry Stephens, Jack Copeman, Jerry Brown, Morris Cash, Al McInvale, Andy Westerman, and Bonnie Biles. The former Mid-South employees included L. C. Gaither, Dale Mann, and Charlie Angel. Some of you may know Ed Harvey, Phil Marak, R. C. Beaver, and John Fletcher who were with Hemco (John also founded Hi-Tech), Bill Fletcher of B & F Engineering, and Horace Brown of Hot Springs. They were also formerly with Dierks Forests.
This group became known as “Dierks Engineers”.
We began to develop into a complete engineering group that could and would tackle most any forest products or building materials type of facility design, very much like the Mid-South group of today. We were a relatively close-knit group, and had special Dierks Engineers’ dinners, campouts, and other technical training sessions. During this period, Fred M. Dierks continued to be our ultimate leader, and had the ability to assign a job and let us carry out his wishes without too much of his input and, most certainly, with his full trust that we would do the best job that we knew how to do. This approach developed the thought that even today we are consulting engineers that tend to approach a problem more from the corporate engineering standpoint than perhaps from the traditional consulting engineering standpoint. Fred H. Dierks, Peter Joers, and DeVere Dierks were other Dierks Forests’ officers who encouraged the formation of “Dierks Engineers”.
In 1969, the entire Dierks Forests, Inc. was sold to Weyerhaeuser. At that time, Weyerhaeuser indicated they would no longer keep the Hot Springs design engineering staff intact; therefore, several of us decided to spin off and form Mid-South Engineering Company. These were Larry Stephens, Jack Copeman, L. C. Gaither, Andy Westerman, and me. We have said many times that surprisingly we didn’t know what a consulting engineer looked like, how he acted, or how he charged, but there we were – consulting engineers anyway. Our thoughts, goals, and desire to be of service to others must have paid off because look what Mid-South has grown into – the premier consulting engineering group in our region for our particular niche in the forest products and building material industry!
Considering the nucleus of experienced engineers from the “Dierks Engineers” who were dedicated to the development of a single company, it is easy to see how we have become partners with the major forest products companies in the South — Temple-Inland, Weyerhaeuser, International Paper Company, Champion International, Potlatch, and others.
From whence we came – directly from the “Dierks Engineers”. The great thing about these past 30 years is that, not only has it been personally and financially rewarding, it has truly been a lot of fun all along the way, and we have touched the lives of many young men and women along the way. Let’s keep it going for several more generations!