There is a classic movie with a classic line about a classic game: “If you build it, he will come.” So the farmer turns a field of maize into a place to play baseball.
In the room are four generations of Wilkersons, the youngest being bottle-fed by their mothers, and this is how it has been for Wilkerson and his family since they began clearing land. “We bought a dozer for $750 and a loader for $1,500 and began our business by clearing land, building waterways, and digging ponds for farmers,” Wilkerson said. Raised in Orange County, Wilkerson was almost a professional baseball player, having signed with the Detroit Tigers, by way of the Durham Bulls, before deciding he would rather work in construction than be away from where he grew up. “I had never been out of Orange County and decided to come home,” Wilkerson said. Today, Wilkerson and his two sons, Paul and Rocky, and grandsons, Royce and Brock, and grandson-in-law Marc Johnson, move dirt, clear land, and carry forth the construction legacy. “I ran my first pan-loader at the age of 13,” Rocky said. “I was operating a dozer at the age of 14,” Paul said. “I learned and they learned by the school of hard knocks, that being hard work and difficult work and sharing that with your family is what makes you successful and stronger,” the eldest Wilkerson said.
For six decades, the construction business has been an integral part in the growth of Orange County. “We’ve done everything from commercial to residential to building athletic fields, including the football and baseball fields at Orange High School,” Wilkerson said. In recent years, while residential and commercial construction has decreased, the Wilkersons have pushed ahead with other specialty construction projects. “We do a great job with horse farmers in the design and construction of riding rings and pastures and barns,” Royce Wilkerson said. Still, through the lows and highs of construction and maintaining the business, there is the absolute assessment that working together as a family takes strength to create strength. “We rely on each other and everyone is good at something different,” Rocky Wilkerson said. “We’ve worked 12-hour days for local farmers and then been in town, jack-hammering rock and blasting rock for new construction. All we have ever known is to work together for each other and for the business.” Amid the generations present, the bond of this family and this business is obvious and as strong as the
equipment they use to move and shape earth. “For me, the most special thing about this business is that all of the hard work was done for us, it is our job to maintain it,” says Brock Wilkerson. This expression is as solid as the ground they work in and by the experience this family has, maintaining family and business, will be what digs their roots deeper.
Wilkerson Grading is a 4th generation family owned and operated business. We have been serving Orange and surrounding counties in North Carolina since 1954!
Picture and Article
Apr. 24, 2014 @ 11:08 AM
By Jason Hawkins; Special to The Chapel Hill Herald