He was born Everette Earl Black. His company was called EE Black; folks called him ‘Johnny’.
“My partner that worked in the same stuff with me in the mine – I think we’d been in and had a beer, as I remember, and had come out that here was this good-looking girl and her mother, older woman, standing on the corner.”
“I said, ‘I’ll bet you a buck I can make mother and all.’ So I went up to her and I said, ‘Good evening.’ She had to introduce me to her mother and she called me Johnny Jones and the Johnny stuck.”
Black “was born on a log cabin ten miles from Terre Haute”, Indiana in 1889. His father “was originally a farmer, and then a carpenter, then a railroad car builder – freight cars first and then passenger cars later – for the Pennsylvania Railroad.”
“(W)e were what they called poor honest people. … I started selling papers on the street when I was nine years old, and as I got older I had a paper route and I had a paper route all the way through engineering school till I was twenty-two.” He also sold drawing instruments for Keuffel Instrument Agency.
“I graduated actually in electrical engineering. I was offered a job – I don’t know whether it was Westinghouse or General Electric now – at fourteen cents an hour, ten hours a day, six days a week. I was doing better than that with the rackett I had selling papers and instruments and stuff like that, so I wasn’t interested.”
So I had an uncle in Victor, Colorado on the old (Portland Mining Company) gold mine and I shook him down for a job, so I worked in the gold mine for a year after I graduated and got a little money ahead … I didn’t have the education sufficient to give me a chance to go up … So I left to Salt Lake and got a job at the Garfield Smelter”.
He and George Collins “got seventy- five dollars a month. George Collins married ‘Tillie Neumann from Honolulu here who was related to the Hackfelds who ran the H Hackfeld which is now American Factors, and he had a job on the Waiahole tunnel to develop water for the high cane fields”.
“He wired me that there was a job for $150.00 if I wanted it, because I’d had experience in driving tunnels. So I went back to Victor, Colorado and got my gal (Ruth Aliene Emens) and we came out here and arrived on the old Sonoma on the 10th of June, 1913.”
“Then I got a job with the US Army Engineers in fortification and river and harbor work, and l had to be a civil engineer to get over a hundred dollars, so I passed the civil engineer examination and got raised to $125. 00.”
“I worked there about three years and then I got a job with the City and County as an engineer, mostly project engineer on improvements that they were doing then, and became assistant city engineer at one time.”
“It was during this time that EF Ford had a job of paving Lusitana Street and he had a superintent … that knew less about running a job than he should have and Mr Lord was losing his shirt and he got excited.”
“I said, ‘I can do the engineering work here for the city and county and run your job, too, better that it’s being run now.’ And he looked at me and said, ‘You’re not fooling, huh?’ I said, ‘I’m sure not fooling..”
“So I went to work with the men. l used to work with them, shoveling concrete and that sort of stuff because there was a lot of handwork in those days … it changed from a losing job to a profitable job so he offered me a job working for him as an engineer assistant to him, So I went to work for him for three years.”
Black later left Lord and “got a job with an old contracting company, Hawaiian Contracting Company, and I was in charge of quite a lot of the work on the famous Doheny work tanks and piers and one thing and another down at Pearl Harbor … (I earned) my first five thousand dollar bonus that paid for my house.”
“Then Mr Lord offered me a forty percent interest in the company if I’d come back after some three years and I went back to work with him, and not too long afterwards he wanted to get out, so that he took the money and I took the plant and in 1930 it became EE Black, Limited.”
The company was originally headquartered on O‘ahu, where it maintained its own office building, maintenance/ wood working shops, steel fabricating facilities and heavy equipment storage yard. It is well tooled and financed to serve as general contractor.
In 1958, the Black Group of Companies expanded his Hawai‘i-based operations westward to Guam with the construction of 1,050 concrete single and duplex buildings for the Capehart Military Housing area at Andersen Air Force Base Guam.
In 1962 Robert Black Everett Earl’s son took control of his father’s company and formed EE Black Ltd’s subsidiary on Guam known today as Black Construction Corp.
EE Black became one of Hawai‘i’s largest contractors. “I received a tremendous amount of help from people all over this state, and it makes me feel very humble because I’ve been given credit for things that other people have come pretty near doing themselves.”
In 2008, merger of Tutor-Saliba and Perini Corporation took place which made EE Black, Ltd. a Tutor Perini company. The parent company office is located in Sylmar, California. The company eventually withdrew from Hawai‘i to focus on its operations in Guam.
Over the years, Black has developed diversity and flexibility. The increasing number of new clients as well as repeat clients enhanced its reputation, earning the company’s slogan “On Track with Black”. (EE Black) (The bulk of this information is from an oral history interview with EE ‘Johnny’ Black.)
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