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Early History of the Association

Early History of the
Associated General Contractors of California

--From the Association's beginnings to 1980,
published as "The Powers That Have Been, Book 1"
Tom Willow, Editor

It seems fitting on this 90th anniversary of the Daily Pacific Builder that an accounting of the great "Builders of the West," i.e., the Associated General Contractors, also be chronicled.

Where and when did it begin? To the surprise of many who are familiar with the historical note that AGC of America was formed, with an assist from President Woodrow Wilson, on November 20, 1918, the AGC involvement in Northern California had its early roots 30 years before that - - on May 13, 1888 in San Francisco.

Sturdy as an oak, and almost as slow to spread its limbs. That’s probably a better capsule description of the AGC as it existed in Northern California 92 years ago; and up to today where the statewide AGC of California stands as the tenth Chapter of AGC in the last century here in the most populous state in the Union.

AGC’s history represents one long string of consolidations, or mergers if you will, with the lone exception of San Diego - that little principality north of Baja known affectionately today as the Tijuana branch of AGC.

It began on the 13th day of May, 1888 when construction men became the first organized builders group in Northern California. They called themselves the Builders’ Association of California. Headquarters was the corner of Pine and Kearney Streets. There, home builders aided by sewer and street contractors, met daily to transact their business. Joining them were the specialty contractors who became the first associate members of the contractor group.

In 1910, the general building contractors engaged in erecting the larger buildings formed an association of their own called the General Contractors’ Association. Headquarters was the Pacific Building at 4th and Market Streets. The first president was Frank A. Masow of Masow & Morrison, with Charles J. Lindgren of C. J. Lindgren Co. (later to become, in 1923, Lindgren & Swinerton, the forerunner of Swinerton & Walberg Co.) serving as treasurer and William E. Hague serving as secretary.

Two years later, the first merger became history when the General Contractors’ Association took over the Builders’ Association. Headquarters was the soon to be erected Class A building, the Sharon Building at 55 New Montgomery. Many of the members of the Association took offices in this nine-story building.

Its headquarters on the ground floor were admitted to be the finest construction industry headquarters in the United States.

World War I began in July of 1914. In the Bay Area, contractors had still not recovered from the earthquake of 1906. Oakland engineering contractor Arthur J. Grier wrote:

"When disaster struck in 1906 there fortunately was no bonded indebtedness and men and money rushed here to rebuild San Francisco. This influx created a hectic condition in the construction business. There was a little mechanization and the wages of common labor rose from $2.00 per day of ten hours to $2.50 for eight hours. Men without experience and adequate finances became deeply involved in the politics of day labor.

Such was the unhappy situation. And the voice of the individual contractors brought no relief. So was born the Contractors’ Association of Northern California (CANC), the first move to make this cutthroat business into an organized industry. "

Arthur Grier was one of 15 engineering contractors (heavy contractors, if you will) who met in their various offices starting in 1915 to discuss ways and means of solving their problems.

In a letter to Earle G. Lloyd, who served as the group’s first executive secretary, Mr. Grier recalled the founding of the CANC (which later was to become the Northern Chapter of AGC):

"I distinctly recall the day in 1918 when several of us met in Palmer & McBryde’s office and agreed to organize if we could sign up twenty contractors at $100 each. Our purpose was to stop the Highway Commission calling for bids then doing the work themselves. The response was immediate so we employed engineers to examine the records and from over one hundred .jobs there was cost data on only five. At this point the powerful support of the A.A.A. was enlisted, remedial legislation was enacted, and the State Administration was opposed and defeated in the next election."

Not everyone, however, had a high regard for contractors. Some cartoonists portrayed contractors in the early 1900’s as paunchy cigar smokers in a plug hat carrying a heavy sack marked by a large dollar sign. The public often felt there was truth in this appraisal.

It was partly to correct the public’s low opinion, that the 15 general contractors joined hands in 1918 in San Francisco. And, unbeknownst to them, at the same time in Chicago, 97 general contractors were forming a national association to be called the Associated General Contractors of America.

In both cases, these founders were determined to build an association of selected members having those characteristics of skill, integrity and responsibility.

For the record, the 15 contractors in San Francisco included three from Oakland, Archie Borland, Bates & Borland; Arthur J. Grier and Henry J. Kaiser; three from Sacramento, George C. Bassett, McGillivray Construction Co.; George G. Pollock, George Pollock Co., and Adolph Teichert, Jr., A. Teichert & Son; six from San Francisco, Warren A. Bechtel; Arthur W. Clark, Clark and Henery Construction Co.; Clarence B. Eaton, Eaton & Smith; A. J. Fairbanks, A. J. & J. L. Fairbanks; and Silas H. Palmer and A. D. (Doug) McBryde, both of Palmer & McBryde; two from Watsonville, Walter J. Wilkinson, Granite Construction Co., and Arthur R. Wilson, Granite Rock Company; and one from Eureka, James D. Fraser, Mercer-Fraser Company.

Archie Borland was elected president while Warren A. Bechtel served as vice president and Stuart S. Smith, a machinery dealer, acted as secretary.

Meanwhile, on November 20, 1918, at the La Salle Hotel in Chicago, the newly formed AGC of America (it operated briefly as General Contractors Association) elected Daniel Garber, of North Eastern Construction Co., New York City, as president.

Four months later the first chapter, the Northwest Branch, AGC in St. Paul, Minnesota was formed on March 26, 1919. By the end of the year chapters were established in New York, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Chattanooga, Louisville, Nashville, Memphis, Atlanta, Birmingham, Oklahoma City and New Orleans.

In his book, "Builders for Progress - the Story of the AGC of America," author Booth Mooney wrote:

"The Association had started on the assumption that it would be composed of individual members, the larger contractors having felt that they alone would be interested in the organization. But the local chapter idea started taking hold early."

By the Fall of 1920, the National AGC Executive Committee concluded that all memberships should be through Chapters. They felt, wrote Mooney, "the success of the organization is to a great extent contingent upon a uniform character of membership."
The Contractors’ Association of Northern California was incorporated on August 20, 1920, with W: A. Bechtel as president; Archie Borland as vice president and five directors: Arthur Grier, Doug McBryde, Clarence B. Eaton and Messrs. Bechtel and Borland.

Two months earlier, in Los Angeles on June 29th the first California Chapter of AGC was chartered with Arthur S. Bent of Bent Bros., one of the original 97 founding fathers of AGC of America, serving as president. (In 1922, Mr. Bent was to be sworn in as the first Californian to serve as president of AGC of America.)

By the end of 1920, AGC of America had 750 members in 27 states, including California - - Los Angeles to be more specific. But in San Francisco the Contractors’ Association of Northern California, representing contractors engaged in building roads, highways, sewers and other heavy construction, and the General Contractors Association, representing the building contractors retained their own identity.

Booth Mooney recalls in "Builders for Progress":

"There had been correspondence between the two groups since then (1919), the Californians having earlier asked for a copy of the AGC constitution and by-laws as a guide in setting up their own organization."

In the Fall of 1921, National AGC President W. O. Winston along with past president Daniel Garber (known as the George Washington of the AGC), Membership Director Edward J. Harding, National Director Frederick L. Crawford, and Charles W. Gompertz of San Francisco, the only other Californian besides Arthur Bent who was one of the 97 original founding fathers of AGC of America, met with President W. A. Bechtel and other officers of the Contractors’ Association of Northern California, as well as George Wagner, president of the General Contractors Association of San Francisco. At the meeting held in San Francisco, the National AGC officials stressed the advantages that would accrue to both Bay Area groups if they became affiliated. Moreover, they pointed out, the national organization would be greatly strengthened by such a move and thus be able to serve all general contractors with vastly greater effectiveness.

President Bechtel (who was a founding member of AGC of America’s Highway Construction Division formed in 1919) reported on this meeting to the directors of the Contractors Association of Northern California at a meeting on November 10, 1921. After discussion the board agreed "that at the proper time the Association would do its share in support of the AGC of America." Apparently the General Contractors Association of San Francisco felt the same way.

"This initial meeting," wrote Booth Mooney, "was the beginning of a courtship that lasted until May 1, 1926 when the westerners officially merged organization with AGC of America. This brought in 70 new members at one fell swoop."

However, prior to the momentous event when the Contractors Association of Northern California was to become a chartered chapter of AGC of America, thereafter to be known as the Northern California Chapter of AGC, the archives reveal that on December 10, 1925, the Ventura Chapter of AGC was founded with Tom Bergseid as president.

Two months later, in San Francisco, Chapter President Walter J. Wilkinson spearheaded a move following AGC of America’s Seventh Annual Convention in Portland, January 19-23, 1926. In the Association’s Monthly Letter he said, "We are inclined to the belief that affiliation with the AGC by our organization would result in benefits to our members, the value of which could not at present be overestimated."

At a meeting of the Board on February 17, after hearing reports by Wilkinson and Secretary-Manager Earle G. Lloyd, a resolution was adopted "whereby the proposition of affiliating with the AGC shall be submitted to the members of our Association for a vote on the question of affiliation, said vote to be canvassed at a special meeting of the Board March 17, 1926."

The membership vote showed almost unanimous agreement in bringing about affiliation with AGC of America. The General Contractors Association of San Francisco, the local builders group, continued to hang tough. Their time, history was to show, had not yet come.

Still, a remarkable feat was to take place following the first AGC chapter in Northern California - - the third in the state, following Los Angeles and Ventura. Within the next 19 months four additional AGC chapters would be formed in California. They were the Sacramento Chapter in the Fall of 1926, the Santa Barbara Chapter in early 1927, the San Diego Chapter (November 15, 1927) and the AGC California Branch (December 16, 1927). The latter was the brainchild of Los Angeles contractor C. E. Bressler, president (1927), of the Southern California AGC Chapter; along with Chapter Manager Melville Dozier, Jr. The purpose was to form a central organization among the six AGC chapters in California in order to create as strong a body as possible among general contractors throughout the state to solve their industry problems and provide a united front to the Legislature.

Other states in those days had similar State Branches. These included Texas with 12 chapters, Ohio, Florida and even the Pacific Northwest Branch which included Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

At the first annual convention of the Northern Chapter of AGC, held at the Hotel Whitcomb on December 16, 1927, Adolph Teichert, Jr., of Sacramento, following a lengthy discussion on the virtues of a State Branch, made a motion recommending the Bay Area Chapter affiliate with the State Branch. The motion passed and AGC’s six chapters in California had established a State Branch of AGC.

One month later, W. A. "Dad" Bechtel assumed the presidency of the National AGC in January, 1928 at the 9th Annual Convention held at West Baden, Indiana. In his inaugural address he advocated the building of a truly great system of national highways - - a dream that was to come true less than 50 years later.

Dad Bechtel was the second Californian to serve as president of the National AGC. There were six others to follow - four of those also from Northern California. The six men and the year they served are: Henry J. Kaiser, Henry J. Kaiser Co., Oakland in 1932; Guy F. Atkinson, Guy F. Atkinson Company, South San Francisco, in 1939; Adolph Teichert, Jr., A. Teichert & Son, Inc., Sacramento, in 1949; John MacLeod, Macco Corporation, Paramount, in 1954; Frank Burrows, Williams & Burrows, Inc., Belmont, in 1962; and Jack Matich, Matich Constructors, Colton, in 1975.

Only one other state, New York, has had as many national presidents as California. Nobody has had more in the 62 year history of the AGC of America.

In 1929, a group of contractors in the East Bay formed a group known as the General Building Contractors of Alameda County. Elected as president was Bill Thornally. Secretary was Henry J. Christensen with three directors, S. G. Johnson, Ted Griffin and R. W. Littlefield. Following a special meeting arranged by officers of the Northern Chapter and AGC of America officials, the group agreed to join the AGC ranks. On November 1 at a meeting of the California State Branch of AGC held at the Jonathan Club in Los Angeles, the Alameda County Chapter of AGC was officially chartered.

One month later, on December 10, William E. Lyons, of W. E. Lyons of Oakland, was elected president of the Alameda County Chapter of AGC. In addition, James E. Pedgrift was elected vice president and H. J. Christensen was elected secretary. Other members of the Board of this, the seventh Chapter of AGC in California, were W. G. Thornally, past president of the previous organization, Ted Griffin, S. G. Johnson and David Nordstrom.

The new AGC chapter was composed entirely of building contractors and began with a roster of 23 members. In 1930, the chapter ranks increased to over 30 members and Bill E. Hague (remember him? He was secretary of the old General Contractors Association when it was founded in 1910) was hired as secretary-manager.

In 1931, Bill Lyons was re-elected president and in the following year was succeeded by Gus Johnson of S. G. Johnson Company.

Then, on June 16, 1933 following the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt as president, the National Recovery Act (NRA) was passed to give an assist during the Depression. This act provided that industry should make its own rules and regulations and provide for establishment of codes to be prepared by industry for its own government.

As Bill Lyons recalls NRA, "it allowed you to form an association for the purpose of assuring everyone in the association a profit."

While the Alameda County Chapter had grown to 35 members, most of those were small contractors. "As a group we didn’t have enough pull in Oakland," said Lyons, "to really take advantage of the NRA, so we decided to get some of the big contractors in San Francisco interested in forming a builders association."

A meeting was arranged by Messrs. Lyons, Thornally, Gus Johnson and George Mauer with George Greenwood and Bert Walker, both of P. J. Walker Construction, a large builder with projects up and down the Coast. Also in attendance were King Parker, John Cahill, Curtis Smith and secretary-manager Bill Hague.

"Basically what we wanted to do was enlarge the Alameda County Chapter by adding some contractors with a big volume of work," explained Lyons. "Then, we would change the name of the chapter and move the headquarters to San Francisco."

At this historic meeting, the group decided to form what on May 21, 1934, would be known as the Central California Chapter of AGC. On that date, contractors who still remained in business from the old General Contractors Association of San Francisco joined forces with the Alameda County Chapter and formed a consolidated chapter of AGC primarily made up of building contractors. The first president was George Greenwood of P. J. Walker Construction and Bill Hague was Secretary-Manager.

One of the chartered members of the new group, Richard Walberg, Chairman of the Board of Swinerton & Walberg, credits Bill Hague with fostering the idea. Bill Lyons seconds the motion. "Hague knew all the builders in the Bay Area. He helped bring them into the fold."

According to Walberg, who served as president of the Central Chapter in 1939 and was one of three Central Chapter presidents from Swinerton & Walberg - - a feat no other building firm could make (the others were Art Smith who served in 1949 and Paul Elsner in 1956), labor was one of the major reasons for forming this chapter in the height of the Depression.

"We thought we had problems to cope with," said Walberg. "But they were really nothing compared with the problems we have today."

The Depression claimed many contractors. Many went bankrupt. Walberg remembers: "From the years 1931 to 1934, I don’t recall any problems, because we had very little work and were only too glad to get it. I remember jobs where the entire project might have been $15,000 and it required as many as 34 bidders.

"One night," he said, "I worked straight through trying to get a $3,000 job. In trying to get a bid together, we tried to cut every nail and screw we could. It was just frightfully competitive."

The Central Chapter office was located in the Sheraton Building across the street from the Sheraton Palace Hotel. The Northern Chapter office was at 351 California Street. While history does not spell out when the two chapters moved to 850 Battery Street, it does record that Winfield H. Arata was Manager of the Northern Chapter until 1954 (his predecessor was Floyd O. Booe, former secretary of the Nevada Highway Commission and later publisher of the Sacramento Newsletter who retired after serving 20 years) and Hague was his counterpart with the

Central Chapter until 1952 when he retired and Bruce MacKenzie took over. Mr. Arata was succeeded by Frank W. Callahan who served until January 1, 1959 when the next chapter of AGC came into existence.

Paul A. Elsner of Swinerton & Walberg served as Central Chapter president in 1956. He recalls that year as a great rivalry between the two AGC chapters. "We used to submarine each other regularly in labor negotiations. The Northern Chapter would give away something to the Carpenters that they didn’t employ and the Central Chapter would give something away to the Operating Engineers who we didn’t employ," said Elsner, "and that’s the way it went.

"One of the things I think I contributed to as president was the merging of the two chapters," he said, "because there were times when they weren’t on speaking terms."

There was also another problem. A handful of Valley contractors wanted to obtain a charter and form their own AGC chapter (early records do not reveal what happened to the old Sacramento Chapter but suspicion is the Depression wiped it out) and break away from the Central Chapter. Bill Campbell, nephew of Walter W. Campbell who founded Campbell Construction Company in 1906, recalls that "for years a group of Valley contractors wanted to break away. Aside from myself there was Carl Lawrence, Mike Heller and Franklin Erickson. However, `the powers that be’ in San Francisco didn’t want us to do it," said Campbell. "They talked us out of it."

Elsner recalls the incident. "About a half dozen of them felt their interests couldn’t be served by the big building contractors in San Francisco. Yet," said Elsner, "the Central Chapter president ahead of me (1956) was Mike Heller of Continental Construction and another Sacramento contractor, Franklin Erickson, followed me as president in 1958.

"That used to be my argument with them," said Elsner. "How can you say you’re not being represented when I’m surrounded by presidents from the Valley?"

When merger talks began in the mid-50’s, the big problem was clearly labor.

Felix Siri, Piombo Construction, who served as president of the Northern Chapter in 1957 offered, "When labor started to get strong, the primary reason for consolidation of the chapters became apparent - - to be more united in negotiations. Duplication of efforts, economics, things like that," said Siri, "they were all good reasons. But AGC’s principal functions then were labor and legislation, and in order to go in the same direction it was important for the two chapters to be united as far as legislation and labor were concerned."

As separate AGC chapters, the word unity was all but unknown. "Between the two we had a king size headache (labor)," said Elsner.

"We were in the same building at 850 Battery Street. The Central was upstairs. The Northern was downstairs. The only commonality was the switchboard operator.

"It was murder," recalls Elsner, "to negotiate with the unions from the kind of weakness that we generated by having us separate organizations sitting in the same building, negotiating with the same crafts, for the same area. To say nothing about the problems of another chapter in Los Angeles doing what they damn well pleased without anymore than a casual checkback."

The consolidation took several years to complete. The two presidents in 1957, Siri from the Northern Chapter and Frank Erickson from the Central Chapter, were among the most instrumental in getting the ball moving.

Mr. Siri kept notes on the merger talks. He recalls what took place:

"As early as August, 1957 - - 15 months before it actually took place - - it was the consensus that we could accomplish favorable reaction to the merger at the Seattle National AGC Midyear Meeting. Merger was discussed. Fred Early committed himself to go along. Also Frank Burrows.

At our Regional Meeting at the Meadow Club Fairfax on September 24, I discussed with Frank Erickson (who was our guest) to set up a meeting with their committee which he designated. Their committee was Erickson, Weldon Richards (who was to serve as Central president in 1957), Paul Elsner (the Central’s 1956 president) and Fred Early. The Northern Chapter committee consisted of myself, Ernie Clements, Earl Holt and Milt Simpson (who would serve as 1958 president and eventually as the first president of the consolidated "new" chapter).

A meeting was scheduled for October 7. However, prior to that date I was contacted by Fred Early and others and the meeting was cancelled - - for the reason that this was contrary to the wishes of the Central Board of Directors. They wished first to have a meeting of the two Boards of Directors.

Meeting was held at the Fairmont Hotel at 3:30 p.m., on October 28, 1957. Following our regular Board meeting, the Boards of both chapters met. Central had its full Board there. Our Board was all there except for Don Ross, Bill Smith, L. D. Weirick and G. F. Burk. In addition, we had past presidents Gordon Pollock, Pat Maginn and Ernie Clements.

It was a unanimous decision for the Merger Committee of four from each chapter; appointed to come up with a blueprint to present to the two Boards. Following resolution was passed:

In view of the expressed unanimous view approving the merger of the two chapters - - be it resolved that a joint committee of 8 (4 from each chapter) be approved from these joint Boards of Northern & Central AGC Chapters with instructions to report back to these Boards at a joint meeting to be called by the two presidents with a blueprint for merger."

Minutes of the Central Chapter report the Board met September 29, 1958 "for the specific purpose of considering a blueprint for consolidation." Messrs. Elsner and Erickson reported on the progress. Then, on October 24, at a meeting held at the Fairmont Hotel, the directors heard a report that the Northern Chapter Board voted unanimously to accept the Joint Merger Committee’s report. The Central Board then voted to accept the report and called for the balloting of the membership. There was one "no" vote cast and 10 "yes" votes.
Franklin Erickson recalls with pride the blueprint committee. "We had 100 percent attendance at every meeting even though everyone was very busy. It was a good group that wanted to do it right."

At a special meeting held November 24 to consider and approve the agreement for consolidation, 80 of the 106 members of the Central Chapter voted affirmatively. At a similar meeting held at the same time and place, 850 Battery Street, the consolidation agreement was also approved by more than two-thirds of the members. The merger became effective on December 31, 1958. The consolidation resulted in 358 regular members, 34 affiliates and 230 associates for a total of 622 members.

The first meeting of the Executive Committee of the new Northern and Central California Chapter of AGC was held Friday, January 9, 1959 at 10:30 a.m. at 850 Battery Street. Present were Milt Simpson, Ball & Simpson, Berkeley; John Delphia, Patterson Contractor, vice president and chairman of the highway division; Paul Elsner, Swinerton & Walberg Co., vice president and chairman of the building division, and Joseph P. Silvestri, Charles L. Harney, Inc., vice president and chairman of the heavy engineering division.

Decisions finalized included:

  • Gardiner Johnson would act in the capacity of general counsel.
  • H. C. Maginn would assist in the legislative program and would be reimbursed for expenses on a daily rate, on a month-to-month basis.
  • Robert Rothschild, Jr. and William A. Campbell would serve as co-chairman of the Legislative Committee.
  • Bruce MacKenzie would serve as manager of the Chapter.
  • John Chadwick, staff field representative in Sacramento would be assigned as Legislative Representative and register as a lobbyist.

Budd O. Stevenson, Stevenson Pacific, Redwood City, who served as president of the newly formed association in 1962 and 1963 (the last man from Northern California to devote two consecutive years to the AGC presidency), recalls "when the vote finally came it passed by a sizeable majority. There were a few diehards. There were a few resignations. But," says Stevenson, "there were also a few new members shortly after the merger."

Stevenson recalls the biggest hurdle of the merger was "each chapter manager had a job at stake and the chapter attorneys each had a job at stake. In the end we decided on the Central Chapter manager and the Northern Chapter attorney. This caused some sorrow for people," said Stevenson, "who were fond of Frank Callahan (Northern Chapter manager). But we were very adamant and we agreed that if we had to give something, they had to give something."

The newly formed chapter, the ninth in California, did not solve all the problems. In fact, all labor problems were not eliminated after the merger.

"They moved between the line of North and South," said Elsner who was to become president of the new chapter in 1960. "The unions could no longer whipsaw us  - unless they could cut some member out of the chapter to make a deal with him. Which they did," said Elsner, "on a couple of occasions. There was one year when we expelled two or three members for jumping out of the circle and making a separate labor agreement."

Thus, as soon as the newly formed chapter was grounded in the North, "the powers that be" started the groundwork for merging the North and South. Once again, the biggest problems facing the contractors were labor and legislation. History is unclear on how long the California State Branch chapter existed (one guess is 1937), but in the 1960’s it became apparent that a state organization was the ultimate solution, just like the forefathers had envisioned it in the 1920’s.

Why did it take so long? As one contractor put it "from the idea to the talking stage is a long, long way home."

On May 20-21, 1966, reported the Southwest Builder and Contractor Magazine, "the three California AGC Chapters held their first statewide meeting in Santa Barbara . . . subjects dealing with such matters as labor relations, legislation, safety and membership promotion were discussed . . . as the closing item of business a complete discussion and review was held with regard to industry advancement funds, their advantages and disadvantages."

That was the accounting of the meeting in the media. But there was more. The chapter presidents Bob Rothschild from the North, Leo Majich from the Southern Chapter and R. B. "Gale" Medlicott from the San Diego Chapter, along with the directors also discussed the possibility of the three organizations going together. The outgrowth of that meeting was - - yeah, it was a good idea. But the discussions didn’t go very far. There was an agreement in principle and that was the extent of it.

The Santa Barbara meeting was significant for another unrelated but important reason. Dick Munn, the then 32-year-old Stanford graduate who for the past four years served as the Northern and Central California Chapter’s manager of the Sacramento Valley area, attended the meeting specifically to meet Leo Majich and the other Southern California Chapter officers and he interviewed for the newly created position of assistant manager of the Southern group. Don Shaw, the present manager had served in that position since 1945 and was nearing retirement.

"As I recall," said Munn, "there was a district meeting in Fresno the night before and Harry Erickson (then the manager of the Northern and Central Chapter - - he replaced Bruce MacKenzie in 1963) and I flew over the next day into Santa Barbara." In those days because of the large territory assigned to him, Munn flew a private plane.

The interviewing session in Santa Barbara proved fruitful and two months later Munn was named assistant manager and in May of 1967 succeeded Don Shaw as manager of the Southern California Chapter, the largest single chapter of AGC of America.

Don Shaw remembers well the meeting in Santa Barbara. "It was the first time that we started talking about merger. But it never was pursued further when I was there."

Budd Stevenson credits Joe Silvestri with organizing the Santa Barbara meeting and also two other meetings between the two chapters where statewide labor negotiations and statewide legislative programs were discussed.

In the Spring of 1968, prior to what was to turn out to be disastrous labor negotiations in Northern California, Leo Majich initiated discussion with Bob Atkinson, of Guy F. Atkinson Company, on the value of the consolidation of the two chapters. Atkinson was then the president of the Northern and Central California chapter. Majich had just completed a two-year stint as Southern president and Jim Kirst, of Kirst Construction Company, was the current president.

All three men recognized the value of reorganizing the contractors into a single statewide organization. The neat step was the formation of a Consolidation Committee.

Jeff Kasler, Kasler Corporation, (the immediate past president of AGC of California) recalls, "I served on that committee from the South with Leo Majich, Jim Kirst, Stew Wattson and Jack Bernard."

From the North, aside from Bob Atkinson, were Bill Campbell, Oscar Holmes, Don Loorz, Dick Moseman and Chet Baldwin.

A number of meetings were held with near perfect attendance. Finally, agreement in principle was reached for consolidation. The proposal was submitted to both Boards of Directors and they agreed. The principal discussion was on the advisability of using a management consulting firm.

Jack Bernard, Moran Company, Alhambra, remembers, "I was not too popular with a lot of the people in Southern California when I became a member of the committee to merge. Some in the South really didn’t believe that it was the right thing to do. I did believe it."

"From my position," recalls Oscar Holmes, "there was no opposition that amounted to anything from either the Southern or the Northern and Central Chapters. I remember that EGCA and the San Diego Chapter were invited."

The San Diego AGC group did make a token appearance. But that was the extent of their involvement.

Holmes remembers a meeting of the committee in San Francisco "where Kenneth Golden, the president of the San Diego Chapter of AGC, told me he thought it was a helluva good idea to merge. Only not for San Diego. They wanted to keep their own (identity). They liked it. But they thought a merger was good for the rest of California."

Holmes said $25,000 was spent on a feasibility study by Economics Research Associates to see what the savings would be and whether it would work.

"The ERA study included a survey of the members as well as an evaluation on whether or not it would be worthwhile to consolidate," explained Munn. "They studied membership trends and potential, membership ratings of AGC performance in labor negotiations, legislative work, labor relations and contract administration and also member opinion on expanded functions and activities.

"Their ultimate conclusion," said Munn, "was there were many more advantages than disadvantages and a more flexible structure would justify consolidation of the two chapters into a statewide organization."

To quote from the ERA report itself: "A single statewide chapter would promote better utilization of key personnel, eliminate the duplication of work that now exists . . . the statewide concept can offer an organizational entity that will attract and satisfy a broader membership base, and . . . a substantial proportion of the current members are in favor of unification. In fact, there is very little resistance to the concept."

One of the key elements in the statewide organization was in order to broaden its service function to contractor members the Chapter had to be composed of 11 districts with staff personnel at these district levels.

The feasibility study was dated October 24, 1968. With its findings, the Consolidation Committee felt all systems were go. So the Committee was asked to put together the full structure - -the district concept, basic staff and board makeup, etc. Once the two Boards approved these, the next decision was to select an executive director. A search committee headed by Bob Atkinson traveled to a number of locations, utilized ERA to make a recommendation and reported its findings to the Consolidation Committee at a meeting in San Francisco. Flying back to Los Angeles, following the meeting, Messrs. Kirst and Majich told Dick Munn he was the choice.

"I was surprised," said Munn in recalling that moment. "On one hand, I thought my age was against me. That was by far the biggest association and there were some qualms about it. On the other hand, I would have been disappointed had I not been chosen. I certainly felt capable of it, but I would also have understood being 34 years old and with most of the staff older than I."

Once the decision was approved by both Boards, district membership meetings were held to present the concept to the members who would vote later by ballot.

Munn recalls one series of district meetings that gave a different twist to the "road show" he and Bob Atkinson traveled taking the proposed concept to the members in Northern California.

"I attended a meeting one night in Redding. Then I drove over the hills from Redding into Eureka, which is a long drive over Highway 299," said Munn. "Bob Atkinson had a plane fly him to Garberville. The air strip there was not lighted. After the meeting, we decided to fly back to San Francisco because Bob had to get back and I had a room reserved at the airport because I was going down to Los Angeles the next morning. The men who drove us to the strip let us out, then drove down to the other end and shined their lights for us. We took off down the damn strip, which was like in a canyon, or down a well. About that time I decided I made a mistake accepting this job."

Shortly after all the district meetings had been held, the members voted on the consolidation. That is, all the members voted, including Affiliates - -which was unprecedented. The reason for this was due to a statute affecting corporations in the State that had no specific provisions for non-profit corporations or associations. The question: who would be allowed to vote? According to the by-laws only contractor members had the right to vote.

However, George Cox, AGC’s retained counsel, who was utilized to give legal advice on this matter, felt that to be safe, it would be best to submit a vote to all members. Because of this, it took about three months to get the two thirds positive return required. This was done by late January, 1969.

Officially AGC of California received its corporation papers on February 28, 1969. However, on March 20, 1969, Stew Wattson and Bill Campbell, the then presidents of the Southern and Northern Chapters respectively, received the chapter charter from outgoing National AGC President Fred W. Mast at the AGC of America Convention held in Washington.

"We operated on a biforcated basis for the rest of 1969," said Dick Munn, "because budgets had already been adopted and we had two Boards of Directors. We had two separate operations and met jointly at least twice during the year."

One of the first jobs for the new executive director was hiring a staff. The first man hired was Don Headrick who became manager of the Orange County District. Next came Bill Case to run the San Francisco District and Pete Muller to manage the Central Coast and East Bay Districts. Then, Bill Hart left the labor department and was named manager of the San Joaquin District in Fresno.

The summer of ‘69 was more than merely running two separate operations. There were negotiations and an ensuing strike in the South, a headquarters office to be procured in Sacramento, and dues provisions and bylaws to be prepared.

"I remember Larry Kay and I working all day one Sunday sitting at my dining room table writing the by-laws," recalls Dick Munn. "And there were many other weekends, too, because of negotiations and the fact the by-laws had to be ready for adoption."

The by-laws were adopted in the Fall of 1969. The first election of the single statewide Board of Directors also came in the Fall of 1969.

Then, on January 10, 1970, the first officer slate of AGC of California was elected at a meeting held at the Los Angeles Hilton. Stew Wattson of R. A. Wattson Company, North Hollywood, was elected president; Richard N. Moseman, C.K. Moseman Construction, Fresno, was senior vice president; Warren Driver, C. W. Driver, Inc., Los Angeles, vice president; and William A. Campbell, Campbell Construction Co., of Sacramento, treasurer.

At the time of the seating of the first slate of officers, AGC of California’s ranks numbered 519 Regular members, 40 Joint Venture members, 106 Specialty members and 322 Affiliate members.

The first decade of what has turned out to be the 10th AGC chapter in the State of California (1970-80) is being written and will be reported at a later date. However, as of this writing the numbers in the membership rank - - 780 general contractors,

195 Specialty members and 750 Affiliate members - - stand as proof to those construction pioneers over the last 92 years who once had a vision that a single statewide association - - including the EGCA which consolidated with AGC in 1979 - - held the solution for having somebody fight their battles for them - and do it collectively rather than as individuals.

Those who attended the historic meeting in Santa Barbara in 1966 may recall Bob Rothschild’s (the Northern and Central Chapter president) parting words: "If we are to go forward we must go forward together. We must constantly concentrate all our efforts and energies as a unit."

Northern California Chapter

1919 *A. Borland  1939 *Ben C. Gerwick, Sr.
1920 *W. A. Bechtel  1940 *Stanley A. Ball
1921 *W. A. Bechtel  1941 *David A. Hemstreet
1922 *A. J.-Fairbanks  1942 *Oscar Fredrickson
1923 *A. J. Fairbanks  1943 *B. G. Modglin
1924 *Henry J. Kaiser  1944 *Howard G. Huntley
1925 *Henry J. Kaiser  1945 *Charles L. Harney
1926 *Walter J. Wilkinson  1946 H. Earl Parker
1927 *James D. Fraser  1947 *Geo. H. Atkinson
1928 *Jas. S. Caldwell  1948 *Al Biasotti
1929 *Harry Lesser  1949 *Gordon H. Ball
1930 *E. S. Berney  1950 *Geo. C. Loorz
1931 *Adolph Teichert, Jr.  1951 *A. E. Holt
1932 *Clyde W. Wood  1952 Harold O. Parish
1933 *George C. Pollock  1953 Dallas Young
1934 *R. D. Watson  1954 *H. C. Maginn
1935 *A. B. Ordway  1955 *Ernest L. Clements
1936 *W. A. Bechtel  1956 *Gordon H. Pollock
1937 *B. G. Modglin  1957 Felix H. Siri
1938 *R. G. Clifford  1958*M. L. Simpson
Alameda County Chapter

1929 Bill Thornally 1931 Bill Lyons
1930 Bill Lyons 1932 Gus Johnson
Central California Chapter

1934 *Geo. E. Greenwood 1947 *Harold W. Smith
1935 *Geo. E. Greenwood 1948 *Carl N. Swenson
1936 *K. E. Parker 1949 *Art B. Smith
1937 John R. Cahill 1950 Harold O. Sjoberg
1938 *Harry H. Hilp 1951 Bert O. Summers
1939 Richard Walberg 1952 Frank F. Burrows
1940 Fred J. Early, Jr. 1953 Melvin F. Gautier
1941 Fred J. Early, Jr. 1954 *K. E. Parker
1942 Wm. C. Tait 1955 M. J. Heller
1943 *James E. Roberts 1956 Paul A. Elsner
1944 Geo. W. Williams 1957 Franklin E. Erickson
1945 *Carl Gellert 1958 Weldon L. Richards
1946 *Robert McCarthy
Northern & Central California Chapter

1959 *M. L. Simpson 1965 *Eugene G. Finn
1960 Paul A. Elsner 1966 *Robert B. Rothschild
1961 J. P. Silvestri 1967 Thomas R. Flynn
1962 Budd O. Stevenson 1968 R. W. Atkinson
1963 Budd O. Stevenson 1969 W. A. Campbell
1964 C. R. Graff
Southern California Chapter

1920 *Arthur S. Bent  1945Donald MacIsaac
1921 *Godfrey Edwards  1946 *R. F. Rasey
1922 *J. C. Edwards  1947 M. F. Kemper
1923 *Thos. Haverty  1948 *J. A. McNeil
1924 *Win. A. Simpson  1949 *J. A. Thompson
1925 *W. E. Burke  1950 Donald E. Reed
1926 *K. R. Bradley  1951 Ben P. ‘Griffith
1927 C. E. Bresller  1952 *R. A. Smith
1928 *E. A. Irish  1953 *Spencer Webb
1929 *Geo. Hess  1954 Win. E. Irish
1930 *Harold Crowell  1955 *Carl H. Wittenberg
1931 *Chas. U. Heuser  1956 W. F. Maxwell
1932 *C. G. Fitzgerald  1957 *J. P. Cagle
1933 *Lynn Atkinson  1958 D. E. Kelbey
1934 *S. M. Griffith  1959 J. W. Bernard
1935 *H. M. Walker  1960 Warren Driver
1936 N. F. Jahn  1961 J. L. Connolly
1937 Gilbert J. Shea  1962 M. A. Matich
1938 *Ford J. Twaits  1963 R. H. Johnson
1939 *Clyde W. Wood  1964 R. H. Johnson
1940 Robert V. Edwards  1965 *E. C. Losch
1941 *John MacLeod  1966 Leo A. Majich
1942 Walter Escherick  1967 Leo A. Majich
1943 Lyman Wilbur  1968 James J. Kirst
1944 E. S. McKittrick  1969*S. A. Wattson
AGC of California

1970 *S. A. Watson 1988 *Jerry Toll
1971 Richard N. Moseman 1989 Carl R. Otto
1972 O. H. Pintard 1990 T. K McManus, Jr.
1973 Richard E. Hall 1991 Dave Hawley
1974 *George P. Griffith 1992 Pete Hodgson
1975 *John F. Otto 1993 Ted Page
1976 *A. J. Diani 1994 Vince Ippolito
1977 J. Stanley Harris 1995 Mark Thurman
1978 Cecil J. Mark 1996 Tom Rolleri, Jr.
1979 *R. E. "Jeff" Kasler 1997 Alan L. Landes
1980 David A. McCosker 1998 Robert Pesavento
1981*Eugene Von Wening, Jr. 1999 Ralph Larison
1982 Wendell Reed 2000 Carl Bauer
1983 *Kinnear Smith 2001 Frank Schipper
1984 Robert L. Balliet 2002 Chuck Fletcher
1985*Robert C. Kruse 2003 Doug Duplisea
1986 M.B. McGowan 2004 John Messner
1987 Al Shankle 2005 John Franich


TOM WILLOW . . . A professional journalist for the past 25 years, Tom Willow’s background in the construction industry began in the mid-sixties. He served as vice president of Penney & Bennett, Inc., the public relations counsel for the Southern California Chapter of AGC. There he specialized in financial and industrial public relations accounts along with counseling the AGC Chapter. Before that, he served as Publicity Officer in Bank of America’s public relations department. In addition, he earlier worked as a photo-journalist for a technical creative firm in Hollywood for three years. In the mid-fifties he began his journalism career after receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from Marquette University. In one stint, Willow worked as a sports columnist on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with AGC of California since the statewide association was formed in 1970. He is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, Town Hall of California, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Sacramento Public Relations Roundtable, the San Francisco Press Club and the California Association of Meeting Planners, and the Society of Association Executives.