In 1971, James “Buddy” Baker walked through the doors to Clement Industries in Minden, La. During his 50 years at the trailer manufacturing company, he has done everything from sweep floors to weld. Scrap News spoke with Baker about his career, work ethic, and what’s next for him.
How did you get your start at Clement?
The Shell plant I was working at closed down. I had a friend that was a driver at Clement at the time, and I asked him if they were hiring. He helped me get my foot in the door.
What are the roles that you’ve held at Clement?
I started off by sweeping the floor and hauling trash. I moved on to sandblasting, painting and priming, and cleaning the trailers. At a certain point, I started watching people weld. I told myself that if that is where the money is, then I am going to learn how to do it. So I practiced and learned how to weld. Eventually, I was moved to the assembly line to assemble the suspension and axles. Every job that I did, I was faithful in it.
Why is “measure twice, cut once” a favorite expression of yours?
It doesn’t make sense to cut something without measuring it. If it’s wrong, you have to go back and redo it, which means more work for yourself. I always make sure it’s right the first time around.
On May 17, you marked your 50th anniversary with Clement. How did you feel on that day, and did you do anything to celebrate?
The reaction from everyone here, along with the feedback on social media, made me feel like I did something special. I spent the day celebrating with my family. All of my kids came to my house and we had a cookout.
What about Clement made you want to stick around and work there for as long as you have?
When I first started, segregation was still prominent. W. Glen Hicks, founder of Clement Industries, always treated me with respect. I am also very fond of the president, Greg Leong. My hard work has been recognized and appreciated here at Clement.
What’s next for you? Do you plan on continuing to work for some more years, or is retirement on the horizon?
I can’t say how much longer I’ll work here. I have a grandson that plays football at Ole Miss University [the University of Mississippi]. He has one more year left. I told him that as long as he’s still in college, I’m going to work. On the side, I build barbeque pits, and I plan on buying a plasma cutter. I don’t want to take out a loan to get it, so I might have to work a little longer.
What do hope your lasting legacy is at Clement?
I hope that people learn from what I did, and realize that they can do anything if they work hard at it.