Last week’s post on African American designer/architect W.A. Lattimore mentioned that he worked with builder Bilbo McHuley, and that reminded me that I’ve been sitting on this ad for a “McHuley home,” published in the February 22, 1964 edition of the Mississippi Free Press. Knowing that Lattimore was associated with McHuley in 1963, I now wonder if this modernist house plan was the work of Lattimore? If so, this may be the only drawing of Lattimore’s we have so far. Does anyone out there recognize a house like this from driving the residential streets of Jackson? I’ll bet there are more than one out there.
Suzassippi also turned up this article written towards the end of McHuley’s career in the Clarion Ledger, February 7, 1993, by Business Writer Mac Gordon (remember when we had “Business Writers” at the local newspaper? Or remember when we had “writers” at the local newspaper, and not videographers? But I digress).
Here, McHuley recounts how he got into building and how he and Lattimore met.
“I drove a truck for the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company when I came out of the Navy in 1945. But I knew I wanted to make some real money,” said McHuley, 69, who began as an on-the-job trainee at the lumber company.
“The minimum wage was only about 50 cents an hour but there were brickmasons, plasterers and capenters making $1, $1.25 an hour . . . big money for those times. It looked like the business to be in.
“The Maloneys owned a lot of property and they paid me $80 a week to take care of some of it. That gave me a good taste of the construction business.”
McHuley later worked for well-known Jackson builders Frank Maxwell and W.J. Thompson, helping construct homes across a town teeming with newly married war veterans.
“I wanted to develop. So I bought Avenue J. off of Guynes Street–me and W.A. Lattimore. He could draw and I could build, so we just got together. We learned quite a bit from each other,” McHuley said.
“Lattimore knew how to get in the door on government contracts, and we did a lot of those–the Vicksburg post office was one of our first jobs.
“The best job we had was in Memphis on three warehouses . . . until some contractor up there decided there wasn’t no contractor coming out of Mississippi to take jobs away from them.”
The MDAH Historic Resources Database seems to include all the churches that McHuley mentioned in the 1993 article as his and makes the connection between the African-American developer W.J. Thompson and the Medgar Evers House. But none of McHuley’s houses are listed. Looks like Avenue J, a one-block street, could be added to the list as a collaboration between McHuley and Lattimore.