August '21

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 14 of 102

IN THE TRENCHES R I C K W I L L I A M S 1 0 G R A P H I C S P R O A U G U S T 2 0 2 1 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M I met Sammy Satterwhite when we were both in high school. He was the se- nior class president of the largest of our town's three high schools and visited our smaller campus a few times, includ- ing dropping in my art class to see his girl- friend, who I shared a table with though I was a year or two younger. Sammy never met a stranger, was truly Mr. Personality, handsome and smart, with a million-dollar smile. But when he went off to college, I lost track of Sammy. Later, however, our careers would be on a parallel track. After two years of college, I began my small commercial sign busi- ness, and about the same time, Sammy came home from the University of Texas at Austin, married another high school sweet- heart, and began building log cabins and log homes. Before long, his business grew exponentially, and mine grew very slowly. But I do remem- ber when he only had one large flatbed truck, on which I hand painted a logo that I would re- peat many, many times. Sammy was a patriotic American, a proud Texan, a his- tory buff, president of his high school's school board, and a true leader in the community. He was also as fine a man as I have known. We were in an organization or two togeth- er and crossed paths regularly over several decades. Eventually his business would em- ploy over 100 people, have manufacturing and sales facilities in several states, and his company, Satterwhite Log Homes, would become one of our country's top builders of log homes and cabins. Around 2007, after operating a four- or five-person sign company for many years, we started planning a foray into the CNC metal cutting and forming business, as well as the metal finishing business using the powder coating system. With the help of my two sons, after doing a lot of homework and two or three years' worth of planning and building, we opened up a facility across the street from the sign shop and started our WPC Services LLC business (which stands for "waterjet-powder coat). It opened January of 2009, recorded to be the worst month to start a small busi- ness in the previous 50 years. I wish I was kidding, but if anyone could time some- thing like that … I could. You may remember that the financial crisis of that moment in time was caused by large investment companies and lend- ers funneling money into mortgages that the government encouraged to be offered with almost nothing being required for bor- rowers to qualify for. When so many loans went into default, investment giants went bank- rupt, the economy staggered, and a deep recession set in. The new home construction business cratered as well, even for Sammy Satterwhite. After most of a year of bleeding cash, for both Sam- my and I, he came to our new facility to talk to me about some powder- coated steel parts we were to make for a few large exposed wood trusses needed on one of their projects. We talked outside on the sidewalk of our new building, which housed all the barely used equipment we had bought on credit. He admitted that things had never been tougher for him, and he was taking every measure he could to stay viable, pay his employees and overhead, and keep his well-trained staff intact. Then he looked me in the eye and said, "Rick, let me tell you, this has been a mighty humbling ex- perience for me." "I know what you mean, Sammy, because it's the exact same thing for me," I responded. "No, it's not the same for you," Sammy contested. When he saw the puzzled look on my face, he gave me this heartfelt explanation: "It's not the same for you, Rick, because I needed it. You didn't." Over the next few years, working as hard as he knew how to, applying all his expe- rience, talent, and resources to the task, Sammy rebuilt his business and saw more years of considerable success. One night he caught me working up on the front of his retail wood sales building at about 11 p.m., and he tried to run me off and make me go home and rest. But I told him I had promised his wife I would have that large custom sign finished before the next day when special guests were coming. I said if he'd made a promise to his sweetheart, he'd surely keep it, and I intended to do the same. He smiled that same million- dollar smile and got in his truck and went home. That was one of the last conversations I had with Sammy, as a few days before Thanksgiv- ing, November of 2020, COVID-19 took the life of this fine Texas gentleman, my old and dear friend. I will miss his mentorship, his million-dollar smile, and his good ex- ample, which shined a light on many, many people, and now has shined a small light on some graphics people, too. Rest in peace, Sammy Satterwhite, you will be remembered and missed. RICK WILLIAMS owns Rick's Sign Company, a com- mercial sign shop in Longview, Texas. He has been in the sign industry since 1973 and has been a contributing editor to Sign Business and Sign & Digital Graphics since 1986. Contact Rick via email at BIG SAM Satterwhite

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

view archives of GRAPHICS PRO - August '21