From the time that John T. “Killer” Johnson, Sr. started Mid-South with a single “side-winder” machine, the company has continued to grow and improve its operations each and every year. There have been a lot of changes since our humble beginnings in 1967 but through it all Mid-South Wire remains true to its family values and steadfast in our commitment to customer service.
The first wire-drawing machine still sits outside of Mid-South’s offices today as a tribute to what started it all
David Rollins travels to Chicago Wire Sales outside Chicago to learn how they could start drawing their own wire instead of buying it from the integrated steel mills. While there, he purchases an old used "sidewinder" bull block wire-drawing machine from a company in Chicago’s south side on 179th St. between Western Ave. and Cicero.
After a few years of David experimenting and learning firsthand how to draw wire in the basement of Nashville Display, the decision was made to create a stand-alone company.
John T. “Killer” Johnson
Knowing that the new entity could sell wire to Nashville Display as well as to other wire-buying companies in the growing Southeast, David needed help. So, he asked his childhood friend and neighbor, John T. "Killer" Johnson to join the company as a partner.
The Poplar Avenue Building in 1968
With a need to expand production capabilities due to growing demand, Mid South Wire moves to its own building on Poplar Avenue. The new building would house an acid-cleaning house to enhance Mid-South’s ability and help the business grow.
The new Visco Drive building
Mid-South continued to grow at a rapid pace and was quickly outgrowing Poplar Ave. and started looking for a new larger facility to meet the growth. The Visco Drive property was purchased, giving Mid-South direct river access and a rail siding.
“Killer” Johnson and Stan Fossick in front of an early Mid-South truck
The Mid-South team was a unique group with Jerry Rogers in the role of company truck driver from the beginning and Stan Fossick coming on board in 1969 to handle sales.
The original invitation to the open house celebration in 1970.
Mid-South ushered in the 70’s with an open house celebrating the move to their new and current riverfront location on Visco Drive. The celebration included an open house at the plant with a treasure chest drawing and a visit to the Grand Ole Opry for all who attended.
Truck driver Leroy McComb (left) poses with Jerry Rogers and “Killer” Johnson.
Just-In-Time delivery became a huge advantage for Mid- South as they moved into the automotive industry having landed large automotive seating customers such as Lear Siegler, Hoover Universal and Johnson Controls. It was a groundbreaking practice at the time that gave Mid-South a competitive advantage with its in-stock inventory and own trucks to offer something the integrated mills couldn’t.
Aerial shot of the flooded Cumberland River in 1975.
The move to the riverfront location was a big competitive advantage but it wasn’t without risk. In the summer of 1975, the Cumberland River flooded and Mid-South was flooded as well. The company sustained substantial damage to its machinery and inventory. But Mid-South, through its can-do attitude and strong team, cleaned up and was back in business quickly.
John T. Johnson, Jr. rolls his sleeves up with Dad, “Killer” Johnson in the Rodyard.
While “Killer’s” son, John T., Jr., had been a familiar face around Mid-South Wire throughout his upbringing, he formally joined the company in 1985 at the age of 22 upon graduating from the University of Alabama. “Killer” put John T., Jr. on the road in a 4-door Oldsmobile to cover every town along his way in search of new customers in every industrial park he encountered and by combing the phone books of those towns.
“Killer”, Stan, and John T.
John T., Jr. was mentored by Stan Fossick, and with both focused on sales, two major accounts were added in the 80’s and are still two of the biggest accounts today: Copperweld, a world-renowned cable manufacturer, and Lee Rowan, which has been acquired by Rubbermaid, a closet shelving manufacturer.
The high-speed wire-drawing machines like this one really catapulted Mid-South’s production abilities
The installation of the company’s first of many high-speed multi-pass Morgan Koch drawing machines introduced Mid- South to substantially faster and more efficient production rates.
The new Pickle Room in 1993
Mid-South installed a new state-of-the-art and environmentally-friendly pickle room. The new pickle room, used to clean scale and rust from wire rod before drawing, added capacity and efficiency to the growing operations.
Expanding to 1070 Visco has given Mid-South the ability to grow.
Mid-South purchased the 1070 building on Visco Drive, allowing the company to increase its footprint providing more rod yard space, additional production areas, and new office and meeting space.
The overhead rail system is still in operation today, 20 years after its installation.
A new overhead railcar-unloading system is installed, eliminating a mobile crane and making it possible for one operator to unload railcars by himself by wireless remote for greater ease and efficiency.
A spool of galvanized wire stands as testament to the burgeoning opportunity this ability provides to the company
Mid South Wire added its first galvanizing line to its operations, expanding the capabilities of the company and increasing the product line as well. But in doing so, they added to the complexity of the business since typically, a galvanizing line is operational 24 hours a day. But they had the capabilities and it’s now proven to be a huge boost to the company.
“Killer” Johnson was truly Mid-south’s visionary and the engine behind the company’s success.
At the young age of 68, John T. “Killer” Johnson passed away, leaving behind a legacy that lives on today. Ever since a car crash in his early 20s, “Killer” had lingering health issues that were compounded by a fall from a cliff while antique bottle hunting. The lively and feisty visionary of Mid-South had put his entire being into the company to grow it along with the team he had built.
Today, The M-S Logistics Fleet is 70 trucks Strong
Trucking had always been a key function to the business and with 15 trucks, they had quite a fleet already, so Mid- South hired a former Averitt Express executive, David Enoch, and MS-Logistics was started. With the start of M-S Logistics and having the barge terminal on site, it also created an opportunity to unload and truck other steel products to other steel users in the region.
The 50-ton Demag crane allows barges to be unloaded many times faster than before.
This was a transformative year for Mid-South in many ways. They also dramatically upgraded their capabilities on the river by installing a massive 50- ton Demag crane. This gives them the ability to lift 50 tons of rod out of a barge in one motion, which allows them to unload a barge in one-third of the time that it took before. It also gives Mid-South the distinction of having the largest barge terminal on the Cumberland River.
The Scott City, MO plant has allowed Mid-South to efficiently serve a greater portion of the country
Mid-South opened a new plant in Scott City, Missouri. Nestled outside Cape Girardeau, right off Interstate 55 and less than three miles from the Mississippi River, Scott City was an ideal location for many reasons: Not only did this expansion into Missouri allow Mid-South to serve one of its largest clients, it also expanded their geographic footprint substantially, allowing them to serve a greater portion of the country with a solid base of operations in the Southeast and now the Midwest.
The flooded Demag cranes shows just how high the cumberland river rose
On May 2, 2010, when a 1000- year flood devastated Nashville, Mid-South’s location and their offices took a direct hit from the rising waters of the Cumberland River. As much of Nashville was underwater, Mid-South was no different, and their operations came to a standstill. But, with hard work, perseverance and some help from unlikely friends, Mid-South never missed an order.
An aerial shot of the newly acquired 1045 building across the street from the 1040 And 1070 buildings off to the right.
To meet customer demand and accommodate company growth, Mid-South nearly doubled the footprint of its campus by acquiring the old Ajax Turner building across the street from the existing headquarters and adding 180,000 square feet of production space.
Galvanizing line #2 signaled a massive increase in throughput and capabilities expansion
Galvanizing line #2 was installed, significantly increasing production capacity with new, state-of-the-art equipment.
Commission of Line #3
Galvanizing line #3 was installed, which allowed for the decommissioning of the first galvanizing line that had been in operation since 2001. This was an historic milestone for the company as they made a significant investment in their future with this move by adding more galvanizing capacity and capability.
Nissan Stadium is home to the Tennessee Titans and provides a beautiful backdrop overlooking downtown Nashville
On April 20th, Mid-South celebrated its 50th anniversary with an awesome gathering at Nissan Stadium in downtown Nashville surrounded by the best friends, customers and partners a company could ask for. With continued growth, the future 50 years look as bright as the past 50 years have been.