Henry Hagood, Remembering a Beloved Industry Pioneer, Leader & Friend
by PAIGE TOWNLEY
For 45 years, Henry T. Hagood, Jr. served as chief executive officer of the Alabama Associated General Contractors (AGC). During that time, his accomplishments were many. He led the Alabama AGC from just a small number of members in the late 1960s to a major commercial construction association in the state with more than 1,000 members. He successfully dealt with contractor licensing, liability issues and workforce issues, never losing sight of what was best for the industry he so loved. “Henry had an ability to focus on detail, to think in unblinking literal terms, to follow in the mind’s eye the flight of an arrow, or a golf ball or the bumpy ride of a fishing lure as it pulled through murky water,” said Bill Caton, chief operating officer of the Alabama AGC and a long-time friend of Hagood. “For Henry, the joy was in the fight, the great work of the mind was in the detail. He could explode a large concept into tiny pieces and understand how they fit into the whole.”
Interestingly, Hagood didn’t originally intend to join the construction world. His plan was to be an accountant upon graduation from Samford University, but a couple of jobs he worked during college—tearing down abandoned buildings for a demolition contractor and then an apprenticeship with a sheet metal worker—changed his long-term plan. Upon the direction of a college professor, he instead graduated and went to work for an insurance company. While there, a client persuaded him to interview with AGC. At the young age of 24, Hagood joined the association he would one day help shape into an industry giant.
From his early days at Alabama AGC as executive director to his last role as CEO, Hagood always focused on what was best for the association and the industry in general, bringing everyone together to accomplish the goal. It was just part of his personality to draw people to him and his ideas, noted Eddie Stewart, president and chief executive officer of Caddell Construction Company, who once served as state president for the Alabama AGC. “Henry was one of those kinds of leaders who people naturally migrated to and wanted to be around,” he said. “Henry had the unique ability to make you feel like you were the most important person in the room every time he met you. He had an uncanny ability to remember names and faces and details about a person’s life. I remember attending national AGC conventions with Henry and he could go to each table and not only remember everyone’s name but where they were from, their children and their background. He had that ability to connect with everyone and bring people together. You just don’t find many individuals with that kind of personality and those kinds of skills.” Added Miller Gorrie, founder of Brasfield & Gorrie and current company chairman, “Henry always exceeded in everything he did, and I was always impressed by his incredible business knowledge. He excelled in so many areas, but his greatest attribute was integrity. There was never the slightest hint of anything that wasn’t 100 percent honest and fair in his actions or business dealings. Henry was a good personal friend and I will miss him a great deal.”
Another significant aspect of Hagood’s personality and leadership style was his constant desire to help others succeed, something he continued to do even after he stepped down as the association’s CEO. “Henry helped me learn the ropes and learn my way around the construction world,” said Billy Norrell, chief executive officer of Alabama AGC who assumed the role after Hagood stepped down. “It was a real blessing for me to work with him for the amount of time I did because it was so helpful to see the way he operated day-to-day and how he handled all of the different projects and responsibilities that were involved in running such an enormous operation. It was a real privilege to work with him and see him in action first hand.”
Hagood’s passion to help the industry by helping others succeed was felt not only by those inside Alabama AGC, but other leaders in the construction industry as well. “Although we worked for different associations, our goal was always the same – to fight for our members and help change the image of the construction industry,” said ABC of Alabama President Jay Reed. “I recall every meeting I had with Henry was positive. We both knew at the end of every meeting that the outcome had to be ‘what is best for the industry.’ Neither he nor I saw logos and egos. After 45 years at AGC, Henry will be missed by not only his members but also the entire construction industry in Alabama.”