When Walker County residents move from home to home, there’s been one mainstay for the last 60 years: Delta Transfer. And from one Harris to another, the family tradition trucks on
Words by Nick Norris | Images by Al Blanton
Kenny Harris sits behind an enormous desk in the Delta Transfer office. The timeworn, boxy structure has seen its share of history over the years, and reminiscing over the sentimental value of it chokes Kenny, who is the owner of the business, up a bit.
“This was my grandfather’s desk,” he explains. “Soon, it will be my son’s. You see a lot of second-generation family businesses. You even see some third-generations. But it looks like Delta Transfer is going to be a fourth-generation business. I’ll be honest, that makes me proud.”
The Harris family connection with Delta Transfer has been strong for over 60 years, starting with Floyd Hill, who bought the company in the late 1950s. Today, Delta Transfer is a moving and storage business that operates proudly throughout the continental United States, but it started out much smaller—with only one truck traveling back and forth over the Alabama-Mississippi line.
Floyd realized he had an opportunity to build a profitable business from the ground up, but he could not do it alone. In 1966, Floyd’s son-in-law, Ronald Harris, came on board to lend a hand.
“Mr. Hill was not only a hard worker, but he had a keen mind,” says Ronald. “He was never one to make rash decisions. His focus was always on the long-term. The foundation he laid has led to what we are today.”
Ronald joined Delta Transfer just as the business was starting to extend its outreach. By this time, Floyd had plenty of trucks at his disposal, and Delta Transfer had been cleared to deliver across 13 states, spanning as far out as Ohio. Floyd, Ronald, and their trusty drivers turned out to be a textbook combination for success, and Delta Transfer reached new heights under this newly-formed team.
Ronald worked alongside Floyd for 15 years before buying the company from his father-in-law in 1981, and he strived to maintain that same spirit and determination it would take to grow the company even further. Five years later, Delta Transfer trucks were delivering in 48 states.
Growing a business to that level takes some serious blood, sweat, and tears, but family has still always come before business in the Harris household. So the office became a second home of sorts, and cross-country deliveries became family vacations.
“I’d load the boys up, and we’d sight-see all over,” Ronald says. “We would do the job, but we’d make it fun. I was blessed enough to take my kids to places we likely wouldn’t have seen if it wasn’t for this job. We’ve visited Mount Rushmore, California, Oregon, and just about everywhere else in this country. My boys have gotten an education in a Delta Transfer truck.”
Ronald’s son, Kenny, had been to every state in the continental U.S. by the time he was 16 years old. As he grew up, Kenny realized he wanted to keep his family’s legacy alive. Sure enough, Kenny bought the business from his father in 2000.
“Kenny always knew this was what he wanted to do,” Ronald says with a proud smile. “He’s done an even better job than I did. The one thing I’m so proud of is that we are still doing business today with the same companies and families we started with all those years ago.”
Under Kenny, Delta Transfer has developed even further and enjoys plenty of business year-round, but Kenny has never been one to take all the credit.
“I attribute our success mainly to our employees and Walker County,” says Kenny. “We’re based in an area where everybody knows everybody. We are surrounded by good people, and that’s led to good employees. We wouldn’t have had this kind of success anywhere else.”
Like Ronald, Kenny also feels nostalgic when looking back at his own years of memories made here.
“After school as a kid,” Kenny explains, “I’d come to the office every day to wash trucks, fill them up, cut the grass. I grew up riding around with the drivers, learning life lessons along the way. I got to visit historical sites and monuments all over the nation I wouldn’t have otherwise. If I missed a week of school, my dad would tell the teacher I was learning more out there than I could in a classroom. Looking back, he was probably right.”
Now, a new chapter for Delta Transfer is on the horizon. The torch is being passed to Kenny’s son, Andrew. There will surely be plenty of challenges and tough decisions for Andrew in the future, but Kenny knows his son will be all right as long as he follows the same advice Ronald has given him time and time again.
“My dad’s saying has always been: I may not leave you much, but I’ll leave you with a good name,” says Kenny. “And I’ve learned a good name will take you further than money ever will. So, I’ve tried teaching my kids the same thing. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with this position, so it tickled me when Andrew told me this is what he wanted to do.”
There are three generations of large shoes to fill before him, but Andrew is willing to step up to the plate. After all, he has been trained by the best of the best.
“This place has raised me and made me who I am,” Andrew says. “Overall, I just want to keep up the hard work my dad and granddad have put in. They’ve given me a name to be proud of, so I want to continue carrying it along.”
In time, Andrew will replace his father behind that timeworn, boxy desk, and the family business will shift into a new phase. As for the future of Delta Transfer, Ronald has some thoughts.
“What some may not realize,” Ronald says, “is that our office could be based anywhere. A lot of our business doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Jasper or even Walker County, for that matter. I have had some people try to get me to move the company to Birmingham or other big cities, but Jasper is home. We love it here and we don’t want to move. So, this is where we’re going to stay.”
Yes, some things truly never change. The family values of Delta Transfer are proof of that. 78