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Yard managers Milton Hamilton, 79, and Darrel Hamilton, 59, load an order of boards at Harold White Lumber Company. Darrel has worked alongside his dad for 45 years.

Lumber legacy

story by Carter Jones

At 16, Milton Hamilton had never driven a semi-truck, until Harold White, the founder of Harold White Lumber Company, asked him to drive a load of lumber.

"Heck yeah! I can do it," Milton said without hesitating. "I was just 16, I didn't care."

Milton turned that first trip into a 15-year run driving tractor-trailers for the company. Now Milton, 79, is a yard manager, along with his son, Darrel, 59. Darrel started working at the yard at 14 and has worked alongside his dad for 45 years.

Back when Milton started, lumber was loaded and unloaded by hand and horses carried logs around the lot. Darrel remembers when his dad came home after working on the yard.

"He'd be soaking wet. Sweat squishing in his boots," Darrel recalls.

Now automation has streamlined much of the process. Conveyors shuffle sorted wood throughout the mill and saws cut boards with laser precision. A fleet of massive forklifts and front end loaders whirl around the lot. Outstretched tongs hoist thousands of pounds of wood from mill to stockyard, kiln, warehouse and truck.

"The timber industry built Morehead," says Harold's son, Ray, now company president. "Our hearts are in the woods."

Milton and Darrel arrive at the yard at 6 a.m. to oversee the 100-acre and 95-employee operation. The pair barely has a chance to catch their breath once the yard is up and running. Both drive around constantly in their old Jeep Cherokees. Darrel estimates he drives 50 miles a week, shuffling workers among the warehouses and stockyards.

When they’re not in the yard, the Hamiltons can be found in the company's wood-paneled office, calculating orders and taking stock of the inventory. The walls are lined with curled pictures of the trucks Milton used to drive before settling down into working in the yard.

Milton says he has no plans of slowing down.

“It almost feels like home," he says. "I’ve been here so long I don't want to quit.”

Ray says employees are family, not numbers. "Milton will always have a job with us as long as he's fit to work," he says.


Darrel checks off on a stack of lumber before it's loaded at Harold White Lumber Company. Darrel drives his Jeep Cherokee 50-miles a week around the 100-acre lumber yard.


Yard Manager Milton Hamilton came to work for Harold White at his lumber yard in 1954. The 100-acre lumber yard and mill started as a cow pasture until "we gon' and fixed it up," Milton says. "It almost feels like it's mine."


Yard managers Darrel Hamilton (left) and his dad, Milton Hamilton, crunch numbers in the office at Harold White Lumber Company. "He's worked 60 to 70 hours a week his whole life," Darrel says of his dad.


Darrel hands out pay checks to employees around the yard at Harold White Lumber company. Many employees at the company have worked there for over 20 years.


Milton counts an order of wood at Harold White Lumber Company. Milton started at Harold White Lumber when he was 16 and has now worked there for the last 63 years. Many of Milton's responsibilities as yard manager have been passed to his son Darrel, a 45-year veteran of the company. "He and Mr. White built this place and they're not going to tell him he can't work," Darrell says.


Darrel writes the measurements on a load of pallet lumber at Harold White Lumber Company. Darrel's dad, Milton, still works on the lot as well.


Raw lumber, trucked in from a 75-mile radius of Morehead, sits at Harold White Lumber company's yard for one to two months before being cut into boards. Most of the processed boards are shipped to China and Europe by way of Cincinnati and Long Beach, California.


Darrel (top right) loads an order after scaling up the lumber stack at Harold White Lumber Company. Millions of boards are crammed into warehouses around the 100-acre lumber yard.


Darrel (right) oversees the board-cutting process inside the mill at Harold White Lumber Company. Darrel started working at the company when he was 14.

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