In a world of publicly held corporations and boards of directors, it can seem as though the unique culture of family-owned operations is lost. However, there is still a handful of private, family-owned and operated businesses that focus on a culture built by their employees and customers. At J&M Tank Lines, Inc. we are proud to be one of the handful, as we celebrate our 75th Anniversary this year.
We would be remiss if we did not take this opportunity to reflect on the employees, customers and families that built the foundation on which we stand and contributed to J&M’s success over the last 75 years.
In 1948, J&M was founded by Jimmie McClinton, with a $125 loan he received from the People’s Bank in Selma, Alabama. He began this one-truck operation, alongside his wife Mildred, hauling mostly baled cotton and peanuts throughout south Alabama and Georgia.
Almost immediately, demand for McClinton’s trucking services increased leading to a partnership with Buck, Wingate and Bill Jackson in the early 1950s. Shortly after this partnership the need for a centralized location was apparent and the team settled on Americus, Georgia.
Throughout the 50s and 60s, J&M continued to prosper, expanding in truck size and commodity types through acquisitions of smaller companies such as H.B. Trucking Company, Har-Pen Trucking Company and more.
During this time, Harold Sumerford joined J&M as a bookkeeper/assistant manager overseeing cotton, salt, clay pipe, bulk cement and bag cement operations. The Jacksons then transitioned out of J&M, allowing for Sumerford and McClinton to continue J&M’s growth to operating over 500 trucks, flatbeds, vans and tanks: expanding into other areas of Georgia.
Following the death of McClinton in 1981, Sumerford took sole ownership of J&M, bringing Harold Sumerford, Jr. aboard as a regional salesperson in the Atlanta metro area. During this time, the company continued to grow heavily through continued acquisitions or start-ups of smaller companies such as Dump Trucking Company, Ragsdale Truck Line, Inc., Coldway Carriers, Inc., Fox Transport, Inc., Wilson Freight Lines and new food-grade and hazmat material divisions.
The merger of Coldway Carriers led to Peter Sumerford’s introduction to the company in 1989 as a dispatcher. A time in which J & M had 550 tractors, in addition to vans, liquid, refrigerated, flatbeds and pneumatic tanks as trailers.
Sumerford, Sr., Sumerford Jr. and P. Sumerford focused on building long-term relationships with their employees, vendors and customers. They also built a strong network of industry relationships through their involvement in National Tank Truck Carriers, Alabama Trucking Association, Georgia Motor Trucking Association, American Trucking Associations and many others. This network allowed for group alignment for local, state and federal legislation facing the trucking industry; legislations that can be contributed to increasing safety regulations, stabilizing the economy and aiding in the operations of trucking companies.
The Sumerford family also focused on providing a reputation of excellence and service for its customers and employees. Long-term relationships were established early on, leading to the accomplishments of our employees and their families and well as our customers and their business successes.
“I have been part of this company, officially, for 34 of its 75 years,” said Peter Sumerford, J&M’s President. “It has been an honor to be surrounded by so many great employees all these years and it has been a privilege to witness their professional growth and contribution to J & M’s accomplishments. I am in awe of their dedication and humbled by their choice to call J & M home.”
In the early 2000s, Sumerford Sr. began his retirement, passing leadership on to Sumerford, Jr. and P. Sumerford. During this time, the two brothers made a transition to specialize in tanks, specifically dry-bulk commodities, leaving 220 trucks and 300 tanks.
The pair expanded operations further into Alabama and Georgia with heavy food-grade accounts, as well as building-grade materials such as calcium carbonate, sand, lime and cement throughout existing and new locations in South Carolina and Texas.
In 2008, J&M transitioned its corporate office to Birmingham, Alabama, providing a destination location for employee growth and a centralized location amongst the terminal operations.
Today, J&M operates 450 tractors and 800 trailers at 11 terminal operations throughout Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas. Sister companies such as TransChem USA, Specialized Delivery Systems and Sumerford Logistics allow for a strong reach and quality service for customers and drivers.
“I often tell people, I feel like I have never been to work a day in my life, even after 40 years of service to this industry and J&M,” said Harold Sumerford, Jr., J&M’s CEO. “I love what I do and take great pride in the success of our company. We have a built our reputation on being first-class and plan to uphold that image as we grow.”
Sumerford, Jr, and P. Sumerford have maintained their industry involvement with state and federal associations through chairmanships, committees, panels, and specialty groups and work with Congress, The Senate and The White House.
The story of J&M, while led by the Sumerfords, is attributed to the hard work and dedication of our employees and the valuable relationships with our customers. These contributions formed the foundation of our company’s success and its ability to achieve this milestone of 75 years of service.
As we look forward to what the future will hold, we are confident that our foundation and core values will continue to push us forward. Our culture, our relationships and our experience allow for growth-minded decision-making from our leadership while dependable, quality service from our people, allows for its execution.
We are immensely grateful for all who have contributed to the J&M Family and its success. Thank you for choosing to be a part of J&M and for your contributions to achieving this great milestone.