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A small-town success story

Rick Couch / News Editor

Fifty years ago, Clayton Winters left his home in West Point, Miss., with a small loan from his brother to start what would become Eutaw Hardwood Dimension Company Inc.

With two children and a wife to provide for, Winters had a lot of doubts. But yesterday, representatives from the county, city and state joined Winters’ family and friends to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary.

David Hutchinson, a representative of the office of the Gov. Bob Riley said Winters’ story is one of the great examples of what can be accomplished with a little hard work and determination.

Through his persistence, Hutchinson said, Winters became an important figure in his community and the state.

“He has been a good citizen and created jobs and contributed to the support and welfare of not only Eutaw and Greene County, but the state of Alabama,” Hutchinson said. “For that, we are grateful.”

The Eutaw mill, which employs 27 people, has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Last year, Eutaw Hardwood produced 2.5 million drumsticks. They also sell hickory sawdust to meatpacking plants such as Kraft and Bryan Foods.

Today, the plant ships products to Spain, China, Taiwan France, Australia and other foreign countries.

Reaching the 50th year, Winters said, was not easy. But, he said, he learned a lot about himself and pushed forward.

“In my younger years, it wasn’t anyone else’s fault that I didn’t succeed the way I wanted to because I had a lot of faults to overcome,” Winters said. “But, with the good Lords help we were able to bring it around.”

The city of Eutaw will always be a special place to him, Winters said. Sharing the special day in that special city was all he said he could ever ask for.

“I love this town,” Winters said. “I love being here, and just to be able to be here this late in life is very special.”

Winters’ accomplishments, Eutaw Mayor Raymond Steele said, served as an inspiration to him and everyone in town.

“I have nothing but admiration for him,” Steele said. “He has been a personal friend. It is not always what he says, but the things he does for the Eutaw family. We really appreciate what he has done.”

Winters is highly regarded in the business world, but he is also respected in his home. Milford Walters, his son, said he learned a valuable lesson about the importance of education from his father.

“One of the best things my dad did for me was when I decided to get married in 1969, he told me if you are old enough to get married, you are old enough to pay your own bills,” Walters said. “He stopped paying for college and he was right. With his encouragement, I went on and finished college.”

Walters said his father was tough when he had to be, but also reached out a helping hand when times got tough.

“Somewhere along the line he knew I was struggling and out of the blue one day he asked me to think about moving back to Eutaw and going into business,” Walters said.

Winters’ daughter, Paralee Kelley, has always been by her father’s side. Through the years, she said, they’ve formed a special relationship.

“We have worked together for 31 years of my life,” Kelley said. “We have had our ups and our downs, but you can’t have some ups unless you have some downs. We are two peas in a pod. He is my best friend and my dad.”