After more than a century helping to build Birmingham – and the nation – three generations of the McWane family have won a spot in The Kiwanis Club of Birmingham’s Business Hall of Fame.
The honor was bestowed on McWane Cast Iron Pipe founder, J.R. McWane, his son William McWane and William’s son James Ransom McWane, and marks not only three men’s contribution to Birmingham, but a legacy that continues to be upheld by each of us.
“I am accepting this award on behalf of the McWane family and the McWane team members, both past and present,” said Phillip McWane, J.R.’s great-grandson and the chairman of the board for McWane, at the Business Hall of Fame event earlier in the year. “This company would not still be here without all of them and their contributions to the company over the decades.”
The Hall of Fame selects only a handful of new members each year, choosing Birmingham business leaders who exemplified strong leadership or made extraordinary contributions to the Greater Birmingham area. J.R., William and James Ransom McWane all qualify on both counts.
J.R. McWane loved working with metal and passed this love on to his sons. In 1904, J.R. moved to Birmingham to work at the Birmingham Steel and Iron Company. One of J.R.’s earliest commissions was the casting of Moretti’s statue of Vulcan, the great Roman god of fire and forge, for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. From its perch nearly 600 feet above the city of Birmingham, the statue still celebrates the region’s foundry heritage. Nearly 100 years later, J.R.’s namesake company led the way in restoring and returning the Birmingham icon to its original glory atop Red Mountain.
After his death in 1933, J.R.’s son William (Bill) McWane became president. Bill remained focused on keeping the business going through the good and bad times of the 1930s and World War II. In 1971, William’s son, James Ransom (Jim) McWane, took over as the President of McWane Cast Iron Pipe and later in 1975 served as chairman and chief executive officer for McWane, Inc.
That namesake company began life in 1921 as the McWane Cast Iron Pipe Company. Since then, McWane has grown into a multi-billion dollar company, employing approximately 6,000 team members with 25 manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and Canada. No longer just producing the building blocks of America, McWane today is a global company with manufacturing facilities in China and, soon, in Abu Dubai and India too – casting ductile iron pipes, building wireless network switches and monitoring equipment, and delivering clean drinking water around the world.
More than 92 years later and still a family-owned business led by a fourth generation of the McWane family, Phillip McWane, McWane sets the pace for its industry. This is a key piece of the McWane legacy – one that we now share, and can take pride in.