TRIBUTE TO MARSHALL B. DURBIN, SR.; Congressional Record Vol. 142, No. 143
(Senate - October 21, 1996)

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[Pages S12455-S12456]
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                   TRIBUTE TO MARSHALL B. DURBIN, SR.

 Mr. HEFLIN. Mr. President, just before the sine die 
adjournment, the Alabama Business Hall of Fame at the University of 
Alabama announced that the late Marshall B. Durbin, Sr., would be 
inducted posthumously into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame. Marshall 
Durbin was the sort of business visionary blessed with the ability to 
turn his dreams into the reality of accomplishments.
  Born to O.C. Durbin and Ola Culp Durbin February 27, 1901, in Chilton 
County, AL, Marshall Durbin, Sr., passed away in November 1971, leaving 
behind him then four brothers, five sisters, a widow, a son, and what 
is now one of the top poultry companies in the United States, with 
facilities in three States, markets as far flung as Russia and the Far 
East, annual sales of about $200 million, and more than 2,200 
  To gain a more complete understanding of Marshall Durbin, Sr., it 
helps to turn the pages of history back to the late 1920's when the 
enterprising young Alabamian--whose formal education ended at third 
grade--moved off the family farm to the big city of Birmingham to enter 
the real estate business. But the stock market crash of October 1929, 
followed by the Great Depression, led him quickly to the conclusion 
that this would not be the most profitable course to follow. Reviewing 
his options, Mr. Durbin decided that regardless of economic conditions, 
``People will want to eat.'' So in 1930, with $500 in funds borrowed 
from his bride, the late Eula Sims Durbin, he established a retail fish 
stand. Two years later, he added poultry--and a second stand.
  From those small retail stands Marshall Durbin Cos., grew into its 
present-day status as a vertically integrated company, complete with 
its own hatcheries, breeder flocks, contract growers, warehouses, 
processing plants, cooking plants, feed mills, fleet, and distribution 
facilities. The growth in Marshall Durbin Sr.'s business was mirrored 
by that of the Alabama poultry industry, which today has a major impact 
on the State's economy. By producing more than 882 million broilers, it 
provides employment for some 55,000 Alabamians and income for almost 
4,000 farmers--and has a total industry impact of almost $7.5 billion.
  During his years of industry leadership Mr. Durbin actively supported 
organizations that would contribute to its growth--and the growth of 
his State. For example, he was a cofounder of the Southeastern Poultry 
and Egg Association, served as president of the Alabama Poultry 
Processors Association and was cofounder of the Alabama Poultry 
Industry Association. On the national level, he was a cofounder of the 
National Broiler Council and the first president of the National 
Broiler Marketing Association, plus he served 15 years as a member of 
the board of directors of the Institute of American Poultry Industries.
  ``His principle business philosophy was hard work and lots of it,'' 
remembers Marshall B. Durbin, Jr., who succeeded his father as head of 
Marshall Durbin Cos., after working in the business with him for many 
years. ``In the early years, he would be on the streets making personal 
calls to hotels and restaurants at 4 a.m.--calling on the chefs in 
person. There was a lot of competition, and often the company that got 
the business was the first one there. ``He always tried to be the first 
one there.'' Mr. Marshall, Junior, is a very good friend of mine and we 
have talked extensively about his father and his legacy over the years.

  Another place Marshall Durbin came in first was in his belief that 
chicken could be a viable business in the South. In the pre-World War 
II era, the Midwest seemingly had a lock on the market due to the 
producers' close proximity to ample supplies of corn and grain. Mr. 
Durbin worked long and hard to help convince railway companies to move 
to larger railcars and concurrently reduce rates, selling them on the 
argument that by the reduction they could increase volume and profits. 
This led to a shift in agricultural economics, with the South producing 
more chickens and the Midwest focusing its efforts on growing more corn 
and soybean to feed those chickens. He also led the way in promoting 
the nutritional value of chicken; it was at his urging in the early 
1960's that the National Broiler Council initiated, with Kellogg's Corn 
Flakes and the Cling Peach Association a joint advertising program 
centered around this theme and aimed at women's magazines.
  Mr. Marshall, Junior, also remembers his father, who over the years 
furthered his education with such readings as ``Plutarch's Lives'' and 
Will Durant's ``The Story of Civilization'', as a fair man. ``He was a 
good leader--a fair leader. I remember him as stern but friendly. Of 
course as happens in most businesses we sometimes disagreed on how 
things should be done because of the generational differences. But I 
can remember that for a while after he died when I had a problem I 
would still find myself getting up and going into his vacant office to 
ask for advice * * * by then I had learned that his counsel was 
generally right.''
  The son says he believes his father, who in his later years found 
time for fishing and always reserved his Sundays to take his 
granddaughters to the zoo and then out for hamburgers, would most like 
to be remembered for the way he helped set the course for the poultry 
industry in not only Alabama and the Southeast, but in the United 
  Perhaps Marshall Durbin, Senior's most significant legacy in that 
regard stemmed from his tenure on the U.S. Department of Agriculture 
National Advisory Committee in the middle 1960's. At the time, the USDA 
was in the process of introducing a proposal to impose production 
quotas and price controls on the poultry industry. Having seen what a 
detrimental effect similar policy measures had wreaked on the cotton 
industry, Mr. Durbin used his membership on the National Advisory 
Committee to position himself in the leadership of the opposition to 
  The result of those months of work in Washington, DC, are still felt 
today. Thanks to the efforts of Marshall Durbin, Senior and those who 
worked with him, no lids were imposed on poultry-production, and unlike 
King Cotton, long ago dethroned in the world market, the poultry 
business has grown exponentially. For example, when Mr. Durbin went to 
Washington to first battle for this cause, the United States

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was producing 2.3 billion chickens annually, while in 1995 some 7.3 
billion birds were produced. And over the years, Alabama has been the 
beneficiary of much of this growth--as is evidenced by the fact it is 
now the third largest poultry-producing State in the Nation.
  Even 25 years ago the relevance of Marshall Durbin Senior's national 
policy work in the District of Columbia was well known. As then said 
the Southeastern Poultry Times, ``His influence there was credited with 
helping to keep the poultry industry free of production and price 
controls and today the poultry industry is among the remaining `free 
enterprise' industries of agriculture.''
  Around the State, his efforts were also well recognized, as evidenced 
by his 1969 induction in the Alabama Poultry Hall of Fame. And upon his 
death in 1971, the trade magazine ``Broiler Industry'' drew upon the 
words of Ralph Waldo Emerson to best capture the industry leaders' 
accomplishments, writing, ``if, as Emerson said, `an institution is 
lengthened by the shadow of one man,' then Marshall Durbin, Sr., was 
such a man * * * he was a man who always knew where he was going, and 
how he was going to get there--a true natural leader * * *. He was one 
of the best integrated broiler operators in the United States.''
  But perhaps the final tribute to Marshall Durbin, Senior, is that he 
gave his vision the roots to continue to grow.