Alabama Academy of Honor

Earl Mason McGowin

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 1975.

Earl Mason McGowin, a Rhodes Scholar, lumber company executive, and a long-time public servant, was born in Brewton in 1901. But his roots were in Chapman. His family took over the W. T. Smith Lumber Company there in 1905, and after he graduated from the University of Alabama and attended Pembroke College, Oxford, Mr. McGowin returned to Chapman and the family business. For the next forty years, he and his brother Floyd presided over the growth of the company into the largest lumber processor east of the Mississippi. In 1965, when the McGowins sold the company to the Union Camp Corporation, they owned a 200,000 acre tree farm and employed more than five hundred people - almost the entire population of Chapman.

Even so, Mr. McGowin found time for a second career in the public service. Entering the state legislature in 1930 as a representative from Butler County, he logged twenty years in the House, served on the Ways and Means committee and the standing committee on education, was chairman of the McGowin committee on legislative reapportionment in 1950, and wrote the first civil service bill to find its way into an Alabama legislature hopper.

From 1939 to 1947, he also found time to serve on the State Board of Education, and during World War II, to volunteer and be commissioned a lieutenant in the United State Navy, charged with supervising lumber procurement in Memphis and New Orleans. After the war, when he returned to public life in Alabama, he did outstanding work as the Director of the State Department of conservation from 1951 to 1955, and as Director of the State Docks in Mobile four years later. At the time of his induction into the Academy, he served the state as a member of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. He also served as director of the Southern Company, the Alabama Power Company, the Union Camp Corporation, and the Protective Life Insurance Company. A member of the Business Advisory Council of the Department of Commerce since 1937, he was the chairman of the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau and the American Lumber Standards Committee, a trustee of the W. O. Parmer Scholarships and the Alabama Association for Independent Colleges, and the Alabama secretary for the Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee.

Married in 1964 to the former Claudia Pipes Milling of New Orleans, Mr. McGowin had two children, Mrs. Florence McGowin Raines and Earl Mason McGowin, Jr. He is now deceased.