John O. Batson: A Loving Tribute
If you trace the roots of Albany Woodworks, you will find the mighty cypress tree that nurtured our young entrepreneurial lumber business. Known fondly by the Woods daugthers as “Mr. B”, John O. Batson has a story that transcends generations of the southern lumber industry.
The Albany Woodworks family has a collection of treasured memories of their time with John Batson. A truly knowledgeable, kind, and hard-working man, whose warmth of spirit was felt by all in his presence. His legacy lives on in the depth of lumber experience and time-honored skill and craftsmanship he shared with Richard and Judith Woods.
His connection with the lumber world goes back 3 generations. His father and grandfather were pioneers in harvesting the great forests of the South. “I believe that several of the buildings that we are reclaiming now were originally built with wood harvested by the Batson family,” says Richard Woods.
John Batson was an incredibly accomplished man even in his twenties. After serving in World War II, where he received a purple heart and bronze star, Batson went to college at Vanderbilt and then got a masters degree in forestry from Yale. He then spent his early years as a teacher. Looking for a career change to get back to his roots, he and his family moved to Hammond, LA in 1970. There he continued the lumber legacy of his family and started Batson Lumber Company.
He also carried on the Batson family ideology of social responsibility and humanitarianism instilled in him from a young age. He lived this in so many ways. In his business dealings, he was very ethical and treated everyone with the same level of respect. He was incredibly committed to education, which he showed through bringing high class lecturers to Hammond, LA and his dedication to his children’s education.
In 1974, Batson walked into Richard and Judith’s first business, a leather goods shop in Hammond, LA. They became fast friends. Two years later, Richard and Judith began building Albany Woodworks. Seeing promise in the young entrepreneurs, Batson joined Albany Woodworks as a partner in 1980. His guidance, connections, and know-how helped form Albany Woodworks into the business it is today.
Richard Woods remembers his mentor with great fondness and respect. “He taught me how to make money and maintain integrity. It has shaped the way I do business to this day. He recognized our dream of Albany Woodworks and as a good friend and adviser, he helped us make it a reality. Any issue I had, personal or business, Mr. B always had the time to sit down with me to help me work it out.”
Judith Woods remembers how important family was to Mr. B, including the Woods family, whom he treated as part of his own. “He always treated our girls so lovingly and made us all feel like we were just as important to him as he was to us. I always enjoyed his tales from his worldly explorations. Having a love for travel myself, I had a huge appreciation for his special way of seeing the world. He could recreate the daily life of cultures with details that most people would have overlooked.”
April Woods remembers a visit to his home when he lived in Roswell, GA for a time. “We drove all the way to Georgia to visit him. He had a pond in his backyard and we caught lots of fish off his back deck. He always told the best stories about his travels when we would see him. After dinner, I would listen to the grown ups talk about the family lumber business. He would encourage all of us to do our part and that is still something I think about to this day as I work with my own family.”
Alissa Woods Mahoney remembers John Batson as a happy and jolly person. Like a grandfather, someone who was worldly and well travelled. “He always had a big smile on his face. Mr. B would never forget to bring us a really neat presents from his travels like beautiful porcelain dolls and hand painted umbrellas. We always looked forward to his visits that were filled with fun stories of his travels and spending time with him.”
John O. Batson passed away on February 5, 2019. He had spent the last decade of his life living with family in the Baja area of Mexico. Albany Woodworks honors his huge role in the lives of everyone he encoutered, whether it was business dealings or good friends including the Woods family.