Remembering Henry Hagood: CEO of the Alabama AGC

Alex Whaley Sr., CEO of Whaley Construction Co. in Troy, still remembers the day in 1998 when an electrician at his client’s job site violated a safety procedure.

After learning about the incident, Whaley says he called Henry Hagood, CEO of the Alabama chapter of Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America, for assistance. By 6 the next morning, Whaley says, Hagood sent a team of Alabama AGC auditors who examined the construction site and made recommendations for enhancing safety, information which Whaley then passed on to his client. For a small family business like his, says Whaley, having support from Hagood and the AGC has contributed to his company’s success.

“Having that resource was invaluable, ” says Whaley, an AGC board member. “A larger contractor might have that in-house, but a smaller contractor doesn’t.”
Before Hagood passed away at age 69 from cancer on Feb. 9, 2014, he retired from a career spanning almost 45 years at the AGC, a $100 million trade association for construction contractors and industry-related businesses.

Hagood carried out the policies set by the AGC’s board of directors on behalf of the organization’s 900 members. Twice, under his tenure, in 2004 and 2010, the Alabama AGC won Chapter of the Year honors from AGC of America. His work also earned him a spot in the Alabama AGC Hall of Fame in 2009. Among his former colleagues, he is remembered as a fearless decision maker with a sharp financial acumen, says Bill Caton, the AGC’s chief operating officer.

“You wouldn’t want to play checkers with Henry, ” says Caton. “Henry was always two or three moves ahead of you. He was pragmatic and practical. He could look at a problem and see it from all of the different angles.”

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Hagood started his career at AGC in 1969 at 24, working as the executive secretary for the organization. Miller Gorrie, the founder and chairman of Brasfield & Gorrie General Contractors in Birmingham, says he served on the committee that hired Hagood. He says it was Hagood’s straightforwardness, honesty and dependability that impressed him.

“I think that was at the core of his style of leadership and management, ” Gorrie says. “Initially, the organization was small and had a small sphere of influence, but it grew tremendously under his [tenure].”

Among Hagood’s accomplishments was merging all of the AGC chapters in Alabama under a single chapter representing Alabama and parts of Florida, says Eddie Stewart, president of Caddell Construction Co., in Montgomery and a member of the AGC’s board.

“Because of his personality and ability to win people over, he was able to bring the entire group together under this umbrella, the Alabama AGC, which made us a stronger chapter, ” Stewart says.

Caton and others also credit Hagood for his role in establishing CompTrust AGC, the self-insured worker’s compensation program for Alabama AGC members, and building the AGC’s political action committee. Today, the PAC is one of the largest in the state, Caton says.

A major piece of legislation Hagood helped push was a bill in 2011 to reduce the total contractor liability on completed jobs from 15 to seven years.

After Hagood retired in 2013, Billy Norrell, former executive director of the Alabama Road Builders Association, became the new CEO. Norrell says Hagood offered him advice and support as he transitioned into his new role at AGC.

“Henry reached out to me very early on when I got the job, and he stayed in touch, ” Norrell says. “He always said, ‘Be honest, shoot straight, follow your instincts, and you’ll do just fine.’”

Hagood’s straight shooter approach helped AGC members navigate challenges from labor issues to state laws, to create an environment where member construction companies could succeed, Caton says.

“Henry always listened to the contractors, ” says Caton. “It was his goal to give the contractors what they wanted and needed. … He always thought that the AGC should do things that the individual contractors could never do for themselves. That collective voice is crucial.”

Gail Allyn Short is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.

text by Gail Allyn Short

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