Murphy retires as executive director of Natchez-Adams Port

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; At an age when most young men are just starting to mull over their future career options, Pat Murphy already had a clear view of his.

Murphy, then 16, had accompanied his father, who owned Murphy’s Typewriter Co., to the Natchez-Adams County Port to fix an office machine.

Standing in the director’s office, he looked out the window, surveying the property and, beyond it, the river.

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&uot;I said, ‘You sure have a beautiful view,&uot; Murphy said. &uot;I sure would like to work here someday.&uot;

What did the then-director say? &uot;I don’t remember. Probably something like ‘Fix my typewriter,’&uot; Murphy said, laughing.

Now that he has retired (as of May 31) after 27 years at the port, including 14 as director, Murphy can look back with amazement that his wish actually came true &045; and that the port has grown in so many ways during his time there.

&uot;When I first started, we had only one finger pier and two (smaller) warehouses,&uot; Murphy said, shaking his head.

Now the facility has two docks, a berthing area with two cranes, a conveyor that can take cargo from railcars straight to barges, and 100,000 square feet of warehouse space on site.

Rail upgrades paid for through Illinois Central user fees and the addition of the port’s bulk loading facility were other accomplishments during Murphy’s tenure.

&uot;When big potential customers see (the bulk loading facility), they know this could be an ideal place for their business,&uot; he


&uot;Before that, we were so congested that we had to turn away business.&uot;

And that doesn’t even touch on two things Murphy believes will make it even more convenient for businesses to utilize the port.

Those include the paving and widening of the port’s levee road.

which is used to access the port’s pumping station, liquid loading facility and bulk loading facility.

The state Department of Transportation is paying 80 percent of the almost $250,000 cost of that project, which should finished in late July.

Improvements to Government Fleet Road will also make it more convenient for truck traffic to get to the port. &uot;That will be a huge asset for us,&uot; Murphy said.

Another change has been the type of cargo shipped to and from the port. &uot;Years ago, it was wood pulp and lumber,&uot; Murphy said, looking out his window to survey the property.

Now, the port ships more aluminum hydrate for such industries at Mississippi River Corp. and Alcoa and seasonal fertilizer for farmers in addition to serving International Paper’s Natchez mill, which is set to close later this summer.

The facility does face future challenges, including the possible loss of Canadian National rail service. At the same time, the port is getting creative, seeking new ways to grow its business.

&uot;We’ve been talking to area farmers about handling more their bulk cargo,&uot; Murphy said.

In addition to helping grow the port, Murphy has spread his wings in other ways during his tenure.

For instance, his job at the port has given him opportunities to travel to such places as Mexico. He was also able, in recent years, to travel with a Chinese delegation reviewing the state’s facilities.

And Murphy’s family life has also seen many changes during his time at the port. In fact, one reason he sought work at the port was that his night job at Armstrong Tire took too much time away from the family he was just starting.

And his two children grew up right along with the port. He remembered with a laugh the times his children would ride around the facility on their Hot Wheels tricycles.

He remembers that when his son gave up his bottle, he threw it off the pier into the Mississippi River so that it could float to China. (Not so much of a stretch: the port can ship directly to the Far East.)

In a way, Murphy’s decision to retire is similar to his decision to seek work there &045; he wants to spend more time with his four grandchildren, ages 10 to seven months. But while he acknowledged that it is time to retire, Murphy also admitted to having mixed feelings.

For one thing, the port has become a big part of his life &045; and the people he has met have become part of his extended family. That includes public officials, port employees and commissioners, and others he has met statewide through his work.

&uot;The people I’ve met,&uot; Murphy said, &uot;will be in my heart forever.&uot;