James G. Slaughter, Jr.

James G. Slaughter, Jr., is the twenty-fourth recipient of the Carroll H. Dunn Award of Excellence. The award is presented by the Construction Industry Institute to honor an individual for accomplishments in improving the construction industry. According to the CII Executive Committee, Jimmy Slaughter exceeds all criteria for the award and adds to the prestige of the highest honor of the Institute.

Jimmy Slaughter was born in Houston, Texas, on February 26, 1947, the youngest of three children. His father married early and then joined the U.S. Air Army Air Forces, the forerunner to the U.S. Air Force, as World War II raged. The war, however, ended before his training was complete. Returning home from the war, he worked as a welder for several years, eventually enrolling at the University of Houston at the age of 28. He earned a degree in civil engineering four years later.

Jimmy, meanwhile, was growing up on the north side of Houston and attending Sam Houston High School. Popular and athletic, he was president of his class, an honor student, and captain of the football, track, and cross-country teams. On a blind date his sophomore year, he met a girl named Shirley from another Houston-area school. It was love at first sight for Jimmy.

Like his father before him, Jimmy enrolled at the University of Houston. In his second year there and after much patience, he finally won the heart of the girl he had met on the blind date back in high school. Jimmy and Shirley married and welcomed their baby daughter, Char, into their lives a year later. Their son, J. D., was born six years after Char’s arrival.

Love and marriage, a wife and child. All of this happened during Jimmy’s college years. In addition, college was a time of study for Jimmy and of full-time work. Because his father had worked his way through college, he thought Jimmy should do the same. And so he did. During his freshman and sophomore years, he worked in construction. Later, he worked as an engineering aide. And while carrying a full class load, being head of a household, and working full-time, he allowed himself only one vice: following Cougar football.

As Jimmy’s college career zoomed along, so did his father’s ambition to start his own company. Dr. W. A. Brookshire, a gifted chemical engineer and a friend of Jimmy’s father, shared a love of fishing and hunting with the elder Slaughter. The two men would often take Jimmy along on fishing trips. And it was on these expeditions where the two men dreamed and planned of owning their own company. In 1967, Jimmy’s father and Brookshire walked away from good careers to start S&B Engineering. They had little money and no work, starting S&B from the ground up. Jimmy received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Houston three years later.

Jimmy had two strong mentors at S&B, his father and Dr. Brookshire. His father taught him construction and engineering-procure-construct (EPC) execution. Dr. Brookshire also had a tremendous influence on Jimmy. During college, he hired Jimmy as a flow sheet draftsman. He would quiz Jimmy about his drafting work. If something was not right, it was promptly corrected. Brookshire was a demanding instructor and a strong disciplinarian. He mentored Jimmy in chemical engineering, teaching him practical applications and emphasizing the art of keeping process controls simple. Years later, Brookshire commandeered the sales side of S&B’s growing business while Jimmy looked after the EPC projects. This combination of salesmanship and know-how propelled the company into a multi-national, multi-company business that today employs over 5,000 people.

Jimmy became active in industry research and project improvement efforts soon after the company joined CII in 1991. Initially he chaired the research team that developed both the Project Definition Rating Index (PDRI) and CII’s alignment tools. The PDRI, which quantifies the extent of project scope definition, is today the most well known of the CII implementation resources. The research was unique and the team offered its findings only one year after commencing the study. It was a landmark achievement — for CII and for the industry.

Noted within CII for his leadership with the research efforts, Jimmy soon became influential in other areas of CII. He chaired the CII Strategic Planning Committee twice, in 1997 and 1998. During his tenure as chair, he was the principal author of the committee’s Vision 2020 document, which looked ahead to the issues and trends that are beginning to come to light now. Also during this time, he saw the great potential of the fully integrated and automated project process (FIAPP). His and others support for FIAPP led to CII’s establishing the FIATECH consortium in 2000.

From 2004-06 he served on the CII Executive Committee. He also was a driving force behind the CII benchmarking efforts on productivity measurements and hosted two workshops at Northside, the personal retreat he and Shirley built north of Houston. It is Jimmy’s visionary quality in addition to his leadership skills that influence those around him.

Even more than his influence in CII, however, Jimmy has made a difference in the engineering and construction industry. Through S&B, he provides outstanding training for craft workers. He is the prime mover on safety within S&B. The company’s productivity measurements represent a key driving force behind S&B’s rise to prominence. He is past president of the Houston Area Contractors Safety Council. In fact, his company has been the industry leader in safety for more than 20 years. And recently in a time of craft shortages, he specifically designed a program to bring women into the construction industry. This bold and decisive move resulted in good paying jobs for those who otherwise may not have had such an opportunity. He takes care of others.

Jimmy is a current member and a past president of the National Academy of Construction, the industry’s most prestigious honorary organization of more than 100 elected members. He helped found the National Construction Forum, an offshoot of the NAC, to unite companies and universities in an effort to improve the capital investment process. He also led an NAC–National Research Council workshop on disputes avoidance and resolution. A major accomplishment by Jimmy and a testament to his leadership, the workshop brought industry leaders together for honest and open discussions on this important topic. The NRC recently published a report on that joint effort with the National Academy of Construction.

He and Shirley have used their personal resources to advance the construction industry, giving generously to the NAC and other worthwhile groups. No better example of this philanthropy is Northside, their personal retreat where they invite and entertain friends and colleagues alike. Industry participants, including the CII research team, the Benchmarking & Metrics Committee, the NAC Executive Committee, and others have come to Northside, with its 86 bucolic acres of East Texas rolling hillsides, to relax, collaborate, and improve the industry.

As Richard Tucker, the individual most responsible for establishing CII, has said, “When Jimmy Slaughter speaks, people listen.” Jimmy has made a huge impact on the industry. He personally led research studies and other efforts to improve engineering and construction processes. He saw the potential of FIAPP as a source of breakthrough in construction technology. He continues to lead efforts to improve the capital investment process as he strives to make the National Construction Forum an industry force. He inspires others to find cost-effective ways to make construction safe, on time, and under budget. And he cares for the workers, providing training and a safe working environment. CII is pleased to honor Jimmy Slaughter with the Carroll H. Dunn Award of Excellence, CII’s highest honor.

Jimmy and Shirley reside in Pearland, south of Houston. Their family consists of daughter, Char, engineering son, J.D., and seven grandchildren: Shelbi, Devlin, Tucker, Kyle, Kaylin, Arin, and Naomi. You can find Jimmy and Shirley most weekends at Northside, relaxing, singing, and enjoying the life they love together.