May 2011| Alabama Living
Jimmy Hudson got his start in the rural electrification business courtesy of Jenkins Coxwell. “I was twenty-seven-years-old and had just finished a construction job at Brown and Root when Mr. Coxwell told me Clarke-Washington EMC was in need of some help. He encouraged me to go down to the co-op and apply for a position with the line crew,” Hudson recalls. “It was 1969 and I was in desperate need of a job. With friends already there, I knew Clarke-Washington was a good place to work, so I took his advice and put in my application.” On Coxwell’s suggestion, Hudson tried electric work and has never once looked back.
Jimmy Hudson or “Hut” as most of his friends refer to him at the co-op, started out as lineman. “We were short of workmen then, and there were several of us that began our career as apprentice lineman climbing poles and trimming trees,” he recalls. In his early days at Clarke-Washington EMC, Hudson worked closely with Woodie Cox, Cecil Beck, Lath Calhoun, Dude Jones, and Jack James, and says the crew only had a few line trucks and one digger truck to set poles. “It wasn’t uncommon to see several of us riding on the back of the service truck during the day or to hear of a co-worker turning in 30 hours of overtime during a pay period,” states Hudson. “Day after day, we worked from sun up to sun down, but we didn’t complain.”
According to Hudson, he saw major changes in equipment and safety materials. “I would say the biggest improvement is the use of the bucket trucks and safety equipment,” states Hudson. “It was much harder to string wires back then, but now linemen have advanced equipment to make the job quicker. A job that usually took us three or four hours to complete can now be finished in thirty minutes.”
No doubt the equipment of the modern lineman is much better than in years past. And new linemen are taught techniques and procedures that have evolved to become safer and more efficient. Hudson says, “The one thing that hasn’t changed through the years is the linemen’s drive to serve the membership. We genuinely care about our customers and want to help them any way possible.”
Since 1969, Hudson has done a lot of construction and maintenance of power lines. He remembers working long hours in all weather conditions. The work was dangerous at times, and he was often away from home for long periods of time. “It was a stressful job on many occasions, especially during the days following Hurricane Frederic. This was the only time I ever became emotional on the job,” states Hudson. “We were completely exhausted from working eighteen-hour shifts, day after day for an entire week.”
Hudson says his fondest memories of working in electrical maintenance are of the people he has worked with and those he has helped restore power to after an outage. “The things I remember most are the people,” he says. “I see a familiar face wherever I go, and it’s simply because of my work at the co-op that I formed so many great relationships.” With forty-one-years of service under his belt at Clarke-Washington EMC, Jimmy “Hut” Hudson says the best of his electrical career is yet to come. “People often ask when I plan to retire, but I always answer, ‘I guess when they run me off!”
In his free time, Hudson enjoys tending to his herd of Angus and Charolais cows, and spending time with his granddaughters when they visit from Baldwin County. But most importantly, he enjoys traveling and spending time with his wife Judy of 41 years.