Editor's note: Because of a reporting mistake, an earlier version of this story incorrectly listed Thomas W. Hagler Jr. as president of Georgia Iron Works from 1971 until 1996. Hagler, who did serve as president of GIW, was CEO of the company during that time span. Hagler’s brother-in-law, John W. Lee, was president from 1986 to 1996. The story has been corrected to reflect this.
Thomas Hagler Jr. was a born leader to both his engineering colleagues and to family and friends.
The former president and CEO of Georgia Iron Works Co., who died Tuesday after an illness, will be remembered as a man who excelled at much but bragged about nothing. Hagler was 82 years old.
“He was the best at everything he ever did and he would never talk about it,” said his second-eldest son, Bob Hagler. “He was so accomplished yet humble. He led by example for me.”
A Georgia Institute of Technology graduate, Hagler joined Georgia Iron Works in 1956 while it was owned by his father and three others. By 1971, Hagler, his brother, brother-in-law and cousin had purchased the company. Hagler served as CEO of GIW from 1971 until 1996, when it was sold to Germany-based KSB AG.
The Augusta native is considered a visionary in the dredging industry. He and his brother, Danny Hagler, created the first hydraulic slide rule used to perform slurry pump and pipeline calculations. Hagler was dedicated to research and development at GIW and pushed for construction of a state-of-the-art hydraulic test facility.
“He said when I was a kid that if we’re going to make pumps that pump rocks then we’re going to understand how to pump rocks,” his son said.
Family friend and former employee Reab Berry recalled that Hagler’s main objective was to convert slurry pumping “from an art to a science.”
“He was the driving force,” Berry said.
Berry’s first job at GIW was as a draftsman. His drawing board was in Hagler’s office.
“I would go in there every morning, and he was there when I got there,” Berry said. “He was always there when I got home. I never could get there earlier than he did. He was a hard worker.”
Berry, who just celebrated his 50th anniversary with GIW, called Hagler the best boss he’s ever had.
“He was a servant leader,” Berry said. “He never demeaned anybody.”
Before starting his engineering career, Hagler was a second lieutenant in the Air Force.
“He had an in-born ability to fly an airplane,” Berry said. “It was like the airplane was attached to his body.”
Each of Hagler’s four sons, all of whom also graduated from Georgia Tech, are in the pumping business. Bob Hagler started Hagler Systems with brothers David and Ben in 1993, while older brother Thomas Hagler III has a pump company in Chattanooga, Tenn.
“He was so proud of the fact that he loaned us money with interest,” said Bob, of when he and his brothers started their business. “He wanted no ownership so we paid him back. As a son, I basically call him a lifetime mentor and friend.”
Hagler also remembered his father as a family man to his sons and daughter and a devout Christian. Hagler, who was married to wife Billie for nearly 60 years, wrote several Christian books during his retirement.
Hagler’s funeral service will be held 11 a.m. Friday at Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church, 2261 Walton Way, in Augusta.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Augusta Old Line Primitive Baptist Church, 3646 Old Petersburg Road, Martinez, or to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at www.stjude.org.