John “Jack” Lanford

John Clayton “Jack” Lanford was born on June 13, 1930, in Cumberland, MD. He was raised mostly in West Virginia, where his father worked in highway construction. The seeds of Jack’s future career were sown as he accompanied his father to job sites. He started to work in the summer of 1944 when he was 14 years old, working on railroad relocation jobs in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia. The family later moved to Roanoke where Jack played football for William Fleming High School. He received a football scholarship to attend Virginia Military Institute (VMI) where he recalled many wonderful football stories and made lifelong friends.

Jack received an engineering degree from VMI in 1952 and served as an officer in the United States Army Corps of Engineers during the Korean conflict. He joined his father’s construction firm in 1953 when they had a contract to build a portion of the original West Virginia Turnpike. Upon the death of their father, Jack and his brother, Stan, took over the company and with the help of their mother and other loyal employees began to grow the business, changing its name to Lanford Brothers Company in 1960. Jack and Stan were not only brothers and business partners, but lifelong best friends who enjoyed each other’s company immensely. It was part of the reason Jack said that going to work never felt like a job to him. He loved the work and the friends made along the way. He and Stan jointly authored a book about their company and the people who made it a labor of love. In 1985, they bought an interest in Adams Construction Company of Roanoke, where Jack served as CEO until his retirement in 2006.

He served in the leadership of the transportation industry in various capacities over the course of his career. Jack was president of the Virginia Road and Transportation Builders Association in 1977 and president of the contractors’ division of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) in 1981. In 1991, he served as chairman of ARTBA, as well as of The Road Information Program (TRIP), both based in Washington, D.C. That year, he also served as president of the Virginia Asphalt Association, based in Richmond, Va. A year later, Jack received the ARTBA Award, the association’s highest honor, for his work toward passage of landmark highway investment legislation.

As part of his service to ARTBA over the years, Jack and his brother, Stan, created a scholarship to fund education for children of parents killed on the job during construction projects. To date, nearly $600,000 has been awarded to 80 students, and the scholarship continues. In recognition for all that they had done for the industry, in 2004 ARTBA named both brothers to its list of America’s Top 100 Private Sector Transportation Design and Construction Professionals of the 20th Century. Jack also found time to render service to his alma mater. From 1994 to 2002, he was a member of the VMI Foundation’s Board of Trustees. He also endowed a scholarship to be awarded to a member of VMI’s football team. In 2005, he was awarded the VMI Foundation’s Distinguished Service Award in recognition for his service to the Institute. He passed away on February 21, 2020.

John “Jack” Lanford was inducted into the Southwest Virginia Business Hall of Fame in 2007.

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