"When the contractor and mining companies start looking for bigger and more profitable hauling units and earthmoving equipment, I’m going to be right there, the firstest with the mostest." - R.G. LeTourneau
Known throughout the construction world as the "Dean of Earthmoving," Robert Gilmour LeTourneau was one of the most prolific inventors of the 20th century, with close to 300 patents by the time of his death in 1969. He designed and built machines using technology that was years, sometimes decades, ahead of its time and became recognized worldwide as a leader in the development and manufacture of heavy equipment.
The use of rubber tires in earthmoving; numerous improvements relating to scrapers; the development of low-pressure, heavy-duty rubber tires; the two-wheeled tractor unit ("Tournapull"); electric wheel drive, and mobile offshore drilling platforms are all attributed to LeTourneau’s ingenuity.
|R.G. Preaching in Liberia - 1951|
R.G. LeTourneau was much more than a great inventor. His passionate pursuit of Christ led him to become an active philanthropist, donating 90% of his company's profits to the furthering of Christian causes across the nation and around the world.
A sought-after Christian speaker, for over 30 years R.G. flew thousands of miles each week to maintain speaking engagements across the U.S. and overseas. In 1952, he got involved in development projects in Liberia and later Peru that focused on colonization, livestock, evangelism, and philanthropic activities.
He also spent much of his time ministering as the leader of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, as well as serving as president of the Christian Business Men’s Association and president of the International Gideon Society. LeTourneau also sought to promote faith in the lived of the men and women who worked at his manufacturing plants by hiring three full-time Chaplains.
|R.G.'s Childhood Home|
R.G. LeTourneau was born on November 30, 1888 in Richmond, Vermont, just miles south of the US-Canadian border. In his early years, LeTourneau showed little interest in traditional education. At the age of fourteen, he left school and moved first to Portland, Oregon, where he became an apprentice ironmonger, studying the foundry and machinist trades at the East Portland Iron Works.
In 1917, R.G. LeTourneau married Evelyn Peterson, the daughter of a draying company owner from Minnesota. The two went on to have five children together: Richard, Roy, Ted, Ben and Louise.
During his youth, LeTourneau worked a variety of jobs, working as a mechanic, welder, electrician, woodcutting, farming, mining, and general laborer. Each new job added to the knowledge and experience he would later need to build his company.
LeTourneau worked on his first piece of earthmoving machinery, a Holt crawler tractor, at a job he took with the Holt Manufacturing Company to pay off his debts from a failed business venture.
This type of work appealed to LeTourneau, and in January 1920 he purchased a used Holt tractor and, with a hired scraper, began business as a regrading contractor. In May 1921, he purchased a plot of land in Stockton and established an engineering workshop, where he designed and built several types of scrapers. Combining contracting and earthmoving equipment manufacturing, his business expanded and in 1929 incorporated in California as "R.G. LeTourneau, Inc."
LeTourneau completed many earthmoving projects during the 1920s and early 1930s, including the Boulder Highway to Hoover Dam, the Marysville Levees, the Orange County Dam and the Newhall Cut-off. In 1933, LeTourneau retired from contracting to devote his attention to the manufacturing of earthmoving equipment. In 1935, he built a manufacturing plant in Peoria, Illinois. He later added other manufacturing plants in Toccoa, Georgia; Vicksburg, Mississippi; Longview, Texas and Rydalmere, Australia.
In 1977, R.G. LeTourneau handed over the presidency of his company to his son, Richard LeTourneau. However, the always productive R.G. continued to work each day even after resigning the presidency. He could often be found at the drawing board in his office designing new machinery.