BIRMINGHAM, Ala.-Builder John M. Harbert, whose company constructed projects on five continents and left its mark on downtown Birmingham and its surroundings, has been named to the Alabama Men's Hall of Fame.
The founder of the Harbert Corporation, who used his wealth to support numerous charities, will be inducted during the annual Men's Hall of Fame luncheon Tuesday, Sept. 27. Tickets are available by calling (205) 223-0109 or (205) 726-2349.
Founded by the Alabama legislature in 1987, the hall recognizes men "whose lives have impacted the state, nation and world." Honorees must have been deceased at least two years. The Birmingham Women's Committee of 100 sponsors the program. Men's Hall of Fame board members represent Alabama's seven Congressional districts. The Men's Hall of Fame is housed in Davis Library at Samford University.
Harbert (1921-1995) was born in Greenville, Miss., but lived most of his life in Birmingham. He was five hours short of finishing engineering school at Auburn University when he was called to duty in World War II. After service with the U.S. Army in the Pacific, he returned to complete his degree.
He used his winnings in dice games on his troop ship to buy his first concrete mixer, and started a one-man construction business. He parlayed that start into an international company that did business in construction, real estate, mining, and oil and gas ventures.
Harbert's company built structures in Europe, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and South America, in addition to numerous projects in the U.S. In Birmingham, it built the SouthTrust Tower and AmSouth/Harbert Plaza. Harbert also constructed the Riverchase Galleria and developed the Riverchase residential project.
Harbert gave generously to Auburn, the Alabama School of Fine Arts and Birmingham-Southern College. He also supported the Birmingham Museum of Art, Eye Foundation Hospital, Boy Scouts of America, Young Women's Christian Association and the Smithsonian Institution.
"Everybody wants to leave the world a better place than they found it," he said.
Harbert's first project, a five-span bridge built in 1949 with borrowed money and war surplus equipment, has long since been overshadowed by his other projects. But the bridge still stands in Autauga County, Ala.