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Ronnie Thomas

Billy Reeves, 73, has been nominated for the Alabama Building Industry Hall of Fame.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Billy Reeves, 71, has been nominated for the Alabama Building Industry Hall of Fame.

Honoring solid career
Decatur man up for Building
Industry Hall of Fame award

On a sultry day, Billy Reeves relaxed at a home under construction and tracked his career as a builder.

He recalled the allure. As a teenager, he’d ride with his father, Roman, on Saturdays and observe his work as a trim carpenter with a Decatur contractor.

“Back then, there were no skill saws, but a lot of skill. They cut everything by hand,” he said. “There were no electric drills. They used a brace and bit. It was a tough way to make a living, and that’s what that boils down to.”

It was a high for the youngster. After graduation at Speake High School in 1954, he worked alongside his dad, married the former Dorothy Burns the next year and in 1959 formed Reeves Builders of Decatur Inc.

For a while, his dad worked for him, and his younger brother, Bobby, joined him in the partnership from 1968 to 1988.

About 300 homes

During a 40-year career, until his retirement in 1999, Billy Reeves built about 300 homes, some small commercial stores and remodeled. At 71, he’s semi-retired now, assisting his son-in-law, Bryan Wallace.

During the years, he recruited more than 250 members to the Greater Morgan County Home Builders Association. He was president for two terms, was a liaison between the local building group and the state for several years, and still serves on the Decatur City Construction Industries Board, as he has for the past 20 years.

Those who know his work

best aren’t forgetting his contributions.

The board of directors of the county agency nominated him to the Alabama Building Industry Hall of Fame.

It is the highest honor awarded by the Home Builders Association of Alabama, said Debbie Baxley of Montgomery, an official with the group. The first inductees were in 1988.

“There could be one inductee or multiple inductees,” she said.

“They will be notified the week of Oct. 8.”

Meanwhile, Reeves continues to sweat it out, standing in when Wallace is away. Of the nomination, he said, “I think it’s great for the people just to think about me.”

Potential builders

He thinks about young people today, who might consider going into the profession.

“I’d tell them to go to school instead and get into something else. It’s going to come to the big tract builders,” he said.

“They’ll build 500 (houses) a year. The little people are going to get squeezed out, like the big grocery chains driving out the mom-and-pop stores.”

But the Reeves name in Decatur is almost synonymous with building. Bobby Reeves’ sons, Steve and Greg, carry on the tradition.

“I built a few houses while attending The University of North Alabama,” Greg Reeves said. “At the end of my sophomore year, I told Uncle Billy that I was going to quit college and build full time. He said, ‘No. Stay in school. You can always build later.’ ”

Law degree

He got his law degree at The University of Alabama and has been a practicing attorney for 16 years. He is building again.

Billy Reeves, with a twinkle in his eye and yelling above the noise of automatic hammers — and skill saws — said, “There will always be a few who can make a living out of it.”

And don’t count him out just yet.

“I fill out financial statements each year in order to keep my license,” he said. “Reeves Builders still exists. On paper anyway.”

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Ronnie Thomas Ronnie Thomas
DAILY Staff Writer

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