Jesse James Ferguson – known affectionately as “J.J.” by family and friends, was only 16 years old when he started his Greenwood, MS-based business in 1941. With dedication and hard work throughout a 64-year career, he built his company into one of Mississippi’s best-known suppliers and transporters of sand and gravel and pre-stress concrete beams.
Equipment Manager Gerald Johnson not only has a long history with the Ferguson firm, but also with Thompson Machinery and its predecessor dealership in Greenwood. Johnson (whose job title does not adequately reflect his many responsibilities) says J.J. started with one used dump truck which he loaded by shovel.
“He started literally from the ground up,” Johnson comments. “When he started, his dream was to own at least four or five trucks; by the 1960s, he was for a time the largest owner of Mack trucks in the state, with over 100 vehicles.
“At the beginning,” Johnson continues, “the company’s business was just sand and gravel. Later we got into asphalt, and later still began constructing pre-stress concrete beams for bridges.”
J.J. Ferguson passed away in 2005, and longtime employee Rocky Steen purchased the estate, but retained the Ferguson name. The asphalt operation was sold some years ago to APAC; today the Ferguson firm includes the sand and gravel company, hauling operation J.J. Ferguson Transporters, and J.J. Ferguson Prestress-Precast. The company has approximately 120 employees.
Rocky Steen passed away in early 2017, and Christy Powell – another longtime employee – is now president of the firm.
At one time, Johnson reports, the company had multiple asphalt plants and ready-mix plants scattered around the area. With its current focus on sand and gravel and prestress concrete, J.J. Ferguson now has one central location on Highway 82 in Greenwood which includes an on-site ready-mix plant.
“We supply concrete beams to contractors in Mississippi and Arkansas,” Johnson reports. “We do some roadwork, and also build bridges ourselves, primarily in Mississippi; we have two bridge crews and a box culvert crew. A lot of work these days involves replacing old bridges with box culverts. We recently completed one such project in Carroll County.”
He adds that the company supplied most of the concrete beams that were used on the sections of I-69 in Tennessee and Mississippi that have been completed. One of their biggest jobs was roadway work for the 4-lane widening of Highway 82 across the state. Among current projects are a Mississippi Department of Transportation job in Greenville, which includes two bridges and the roadway.
Gerald Johnson was born and raised in neighboring Carroll County, where he still lives. His daughter teaches in Greenwood; Johnson has one grandson.
In 1974, Johnson went to work at the Stribling-Clements Caterpillar dealership in Greenwood – which was purchased by Thompson Machinery in the late 1980s. He moved to Columbus in 1977 to help open the Stribling-Clements branch store there, and remained there until 1989. Moving back to Greenwood, he continued working at what had become Thompson Machinery until 1991, when he joined the J.J. Ferguson firm.
He started in parts with Stribling-Clements/Thompson, later moving into the service department and ultimately serving as the Greenwood Shop Foreman and then the Columbus Shop Foreman. (Making the connections even stronger, it is worth noting that Gerald’s brother Glenn was a longtime mechanic at Thompson in Greenwood.)
At Ferguson, Johnson started as the Heavy Equipment Supervisor; over the years his role has expanded to include purchasing of heavy equipment, sand and gravels and bridge materials, and more recently, trucks.
J.J. Ferguson’s equipment fleet totals approximately 60 pieces. Along with dump trucks and other specialized machines, the fleet includes 16 Cat machines. These include 12G, 12H, and 140G motor graders; two 966F2 wheel loaders; D3C and D5M LGP dozers; 320D and 330D excavators; and a CP-323C vibratory compactor, among others. Johnson reports that the company has plans to purchase a Cat skid steer loader in the near future.
“Cat machines have better durability,” he states. “Even older Cat machines will remain dependable if you keep them properly maintained; they’ll just keep going and going. We’ve never had to do much repairs on our Cat machines.”
While Ferguson does much of its own equipment maintenance (they have full-time equipment and truck mechanics), Johnson says he relies on Thompson shop and field service for specialized maintenance or needed service. With his commitment to regular maintenance, he also buys a lot of parts from Thompson and benefits from their quick availability, he reports.