When you talk about family businesses, it doesn’t get much more family than Tommy Dews and his C.L. Dews & Sons Foundry & Machinery in Hattiesburg.
Tommy now serves as president of the fourth-generation company, which goes back to his grandfather, Carrington Luther Dews Sr. Carrington moved his family to Hattiesburg in 1935 and went to work for A.B. Maynard at Hattiesburg Foundry – formerly Enterprise Foundry – which supplied the timber industry of south Mississippi.
Carrington purchased the foundry from Maynard in 1941, later renaming the business C.L. Dews & Sons Foundry. In the mid-1940s, Carrington’s two sons – C.L. Jr. and Burns – joined the business shortly before the foundry was destroyed in a fire.
After a new location was built on Edwards Street, where the business still stands today, Evelyn Dews Boone – one of Carrington’s two daughters – started at the company in 1955 as a bookkeeper. Following in the footsteps of that first and second generation, four members of the third generation and six members of the fourth generation now manage the foundry.
“There’s a long line of generations,” Tommy said. “So we have 10 family members right now.”
That includes vice president George Boone (Tommy’s cousin), vice president Bobby Dews (Tommy’s brother), corporate secretary/treasurer Sandra Norris (Tommy’s cousin), estimator Chad Dews (Tommy’s son), sales manager Georgia Boone (Tommy’s cousin) and general manager Judy Norris (Sandra’s son). There’s also Lee Michael (Sandra’s son), Lucy Jussely (Bobby’s daughter) and Steven Dews (Tommy’s nephew).
“It gives you a lot of pride to continue a family businesses,” Tommy said. “There’s not a lot of businesses that make it to the fourth generation.”
As president of the company, Tommy oversees three divisions of the business: the foundry, steel fabrication and the machine shop. A new foundry, which was completed in 1995, produces more than 5 million pounds per year, primarily for the mining industry.
“The foundry started off making parts for the lumber industry, and has now evolved to where about 95 percent of the foundry production goes into parts for aggregate machines – rock crushers,” Tommy said. “In the steel fabrication, which started in the 1950s, we do general construction-type work, like the buildings at William Carey (College). We also do a lot of highway-related items, such as bridge bearings and drainage systems.
“And then the machine shop is more to complement the foundry and the steel shop, as opposed to being a stand-alone division. It supports the other two.”
As far as Tommy is concerned, the company’s longevity is a direct cause of the family’s work ethic.
“But also, the fact that we have three divisions, where we can have a lot of family members that don’t work necessarily on top of one another,” he said. “Each division has a separate set of customers, and really a separate set of employees.”
Tommy and his wife, Skip, are both graduates of Hattiesburg High School and met while attending Mississippi State University. In addition to their son Chad, the couple has a daughter, Ashley Penny, who lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
In addition to the foundry, the Dews family is very active in the Hattiesburg community as members of the University of Southern Mississippi Circle of Champions, Vulcan Materials & Cure Finders benefiting Cystic Fibrosis, Vulcan Materials – Southwest Division benefiting University of Texas Health Science Center for Cancer Therapy & Research, Martin Marietta Materials benefiting the American Diabetes Association, United Way, Area Development Partnership, the American Heart Association and the Palmer Home for Children.
The Dews family also is members of several professional associations, including the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, the American Institute of Steel Construction, the Mississippi Road Builders Association, the Texas Aggregate & Concrete Association, the American Foundry Society, the Associated Builders and Contractors, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Welding Society and the Mississippi Economic Council.
A lifetime Hattiesburg resident of Hattiesburg, Tommy considers the Hub City special because of the high quality of life it provides its residents.
“There’s a lot going on, with the University (of Southern Mississippi), being close to the Coast and Florida,” he said. “I’d say the quality of life issues are good here, and the university is a big part of that.
“I don’t know that I would have any particular stand-out memories – I just have memories of growing up in Hattiesburg. I have an awful lot of friends here that I’ve made – I’m 71 years old, and I’ve got a lot of friends from Hattiesburg.”
Tommy also enjoys Hattiesburg because of the level of college athletics offered in the city.
“Certainly, there’s an abundance of it here in our area,” he said. “Other parts of our family love the downtown portion, with the Friday night events and things downtown.
“So there’s something for everybody, whether it’s in the arts and cultural or athletics. It’s a great place to call home.”
And after 80 years of calling it home, the Dews family continues to do their part to make the Hattiesburg area an even better place for the community.
“I had to give a talk to the Kiwanis Club one time, and I made a list of the things that the family has contributed to,” he said. “It was everything from the Hattiesburg (Public School District) board, to the Lamar County (School District) board, to multiple boards at USM and bank boards.
“And then there’s Forrest General (Hospital), Mississippi Power, the (Hattiesburg) Historic Neighborhood Association, the Area Development Partnership, our churches, the country club. The list goes on and on of different boards that we’ve all served on, because there’s so many of us that it was easy to do. Everyone has different interests.”