Billy Averett’s Legacy in Olney
You can walk through the streets of Olney and see Billy Averett’s fingerprint on just about every building, church or home. Many of his friends and family describe him as a man of integrity, an honest man, a fair man. Dan Winingham was adamant about Averett’s character. “If you walk down the street, you can’t find anyone who would say something bad about Billy,” Winingham exclaimed! His best friend of more than 60 years Neil Larimore would also attest to Averett’s character, and most likely, reminisce about the 6:30 a.m. coffee the two would share every Monday morning.
Averett’s business partner and longtime friend Dan Winingham, his cousin John Tomlinson, his wife Judy Averett and his daughter Piney Richards gathered at Olney Heritage Museum to reminisce about Billy Averett’s heritage and the legacy he left in Olney. The group shared funny and heartfelt stories about a man who earned respect from just about every person he encountered.
Averett was born in 1932 in Young County to Ross and Georgia Tomlinson Averett. He fell in love with construction at the age of 12. Averett’s cousin John Tomlinson said, “[Billy] started building when he was 15 years old. He came to my father’s house when he was an early teenager, 12 or 13 years old; By the time he was 16 years old, he was a foreman of a framing crew. Besides having the required skills, he had the assertiveness and the ambition to take on projects at that age.”
After Averett graduated from Graham High School, he married Grace Edwards and began his entrepreneurial career in the construction arena as a builder. As he grew his family with the addition of his son Tim and his daughter Piney Richards, his career continued to ascend, eventually leading him into partnership with Dan Winingham and the launch of Averett and Winingham Lumber Company in Olney, which they started in 1964 and ran for eight years. Winingham recently donated artifacts from Averett Winingham Lumber Company for the upcoming exhibit at Olney Heritage Museum.
Winingham recalled a fond memory about Averett. Besides the fact that Averett could eat an entire pecan pie in one sitting, Winingham said, “Billy was just exceptional. Most of us in our lifetime finally reach the peak of our ability, Billy Averett never had the opportunity to reach his peak. If Billy had the opportunity, there is no telling what he could have done in his lifetime. We went through tough times in the late 60s, and the opportunities were not available at that time. Billy could have kept going in his career if he had the opportunity.”
Tomlinson agreed with Winingham and added, “When my dad had a heart attack and was not able to finish a couple of projects, Billy stepped up to help him out. It was natural for Billy to build because he never saw anything else, and he made the natural choice to become a builder.”
Judy Averett urged everyone to remember the projects Billy spearheaded. There is a long list that includes a few places we pass by almost every day in Olney. In addition to the Averett Winingham building, included are First Baptist Church, The Lutheran Church, the Fort Belknap building, Lunn Funeral Home and all the homes in Sky View Subdivision. In addition to building homes and apartments in Olney, Averett built homes in Throckmorton and Newcastle, also Throckmorton High School, the Chapel in the hospital at Shephard Air Force base in Wichita Falls, the medical clinic in Sweetwater, the gazebos in Olney, Throckmorton and Newcastle. “Oh, I almost forgot that he built the first high school football stadium bowl in Vernon,” Judy said. Richards chimed in, “I remember that. I was 12 years old, and I had to clean the windows.”
Billy and Judy married in 1981, merged their families.“We started working on building our home. After we moved into our home, I started managing South Terrance Homes and later started working with reports at the lumberyard,” said Judy. Judy recalls how the family became a team by working together in the business. “Caring for one another helps us bond. Everyone loves one another. In light of the many tragedies that occurred in our family, like the loss of my daughter, grandson and son, we were forced to hold each other up. Because of our faith we naturally took care of one another.”
Everyone agreed about Averett’s love of math. Tomlinson said he had a different eye than most people and a natural understanding of geometry, shapes and sizes. Judy recalled he bought a book called “The Steel Square.” “This book was before calculators,” she said. “He used calculus and trigonometry to build buildings and designs,” she said while sharing a picture of a design he replicated from a picture for one of the homes in Olney.
The Olney Chamber of Commerce honored Averett by awarding him the “Stars of Olney” award in 2017. Olney citizens and visitors can honor Averett’s memory while walking through the streets of Olney reflecting on the soul and sweat he poured into every construction project. Remember him when you walk into the buildings he built. Remember his integrity as a businessman in Olney who never sacrificed the quality of his work for money. Remember his life when you talk to his family and friends.
Visit our Facebook page for more stories and a complete list of Billy Averett’s projects. www.Facebook.com/OlneyEnterprise.