BY BRUCE BRANUM
The Greenville Standard
On Monday, May 17, 2021 may it be it be duly noted that Hugh Dean Thompson officially had served Butler County for 65 years.
At Thompson’s retirement party on May 20, Butler County Engineer Dennis McCall stated Thompson started when the only paved roads in the county were U.S. Highway 31, Alabama Highways 10 and 106 West, and the county roads of Garland, Halso Mill Road from Greenville to the grist mill at Pigeon Creek and Forest Home Road from Greenville to the grist mill in the community.
He also stated that Thompson’s starting pay rate was 85 cents per hour.
He went on to note that Thompson had been around long enough to see 550 miles of roads in Butler County paved and many re-paved, and the Eisenhower Interstate System developed over the span of his career.
At the retirement party, Thompson received a plaque, a gift envelope filled with gift cards, and a cleaning bucket filled with his favorite snacks.
Thompson, who was born on April 29, 1935, hired with the Butler County Road Department on May, 17, 1956.
Thompson said of his career that he can remember when they first began paving roads in the county that the road department would have to post ‘light’ watchmen at the beginning and end of the paving and they would guard the road overnight.
The watchmen would use flambeaus (basically a torch on a stick) to alert traffic. He indicated that the job was typically given to the young men.
The flambeaus were used due to the road building process as it took nearly a day for the first pavement tar to dry. After it dried then a chip seal was placed and it was ready for traffic.
Horses, mules, and wagons were especially hard on newly built roads due to their hoof and wagon wheel imprints.
Thompson has worked for six county engineers throughout his career and some 250 of his fellow county employees have passed away throughout the same length of time.
He started as a truck driver, then worked on the bridge patching crew, then the grading crew where he ran a sheep foot compactor, a dirt pan, a dozier (he was the first to operate a hydraulic piece of equipment), then in 1981 he drove a lowboy for 35 years until he was assigned cleanup duties in the shop area.
Though Thompson’s last official work day was Thursday, May 20, he has five weeks of sick time which he will use before officially entering retirement.
Thompson said he was going to enjoy his retirement by kicking back and hopefully do some traveling with his wife, Annette Boswell, in the near future to spend time with family.
He said that he tells Annette each day that he loves her more every day.
They have been married 69 years and have two sons, a daughter, and eight grandchildren.