The revived Huber-Hunt Dallas Branch, with no reservoir of experienced personnel, had much difficulty in finding a qualified person to head-up its new Montgomery job. As project manager, they sent in a brusque, rough and tumble man named H. R. (Sonny) Phipps from HH&N’s California Branch. Phipps blew into town thinking he was the Almighty, and was determined to set a tone to impress all the sub-contractors and assorted hicks who would work under him.
The device which Phipps chose to make such an impression was to pour one of the huge concrete columns within the first week of his arrival. That would demonstrate to the world that he was king of the hill. “Like hell he will!” shrieked the PH&J team. There was no concrete mix design approved, no reinforcing steel shop drawings submitted, no forming method approved, and no pre-pour conference had been held. It would be weeks before all these construction safeguards were in place.
Sonny Phipps became enraged when we refused to let him have his way. Weeks later we told him he could pour one of the outer minor columns which was to support only three levels, but Phipps disdainfully refused. Finally he chose to erect an empty column form of a major column as his “show-em” endeavor and stick some rebars out of the top of it. To save face he told all the workers on the job that he had defied the architect and poured it over our protest. A job photo of Sonny’s solitary show column appears below.
Read other RSA Tower stories to understand the wisdom of our concrete pouring safeguards, and the disasters that can occur when concreting operations go awry.
-Charles Humphries (“Peril and Intrigue Within Architecture”)