In January of 1976 Robert Nash started work in the Newton County department of public works. He operated a tractor that was pulled behind a motor grader to smooth out and pave the county’s roads.
On February 26, Nash, who has put his mark on many of the county’s roads throughout four decades of service, retired.
In between, he installed headwalls and pipes for drainage of Newton County’s roads, reflowed wooden bridges, worked on asphalt paving, worked on triple surface treatment paving and served as the county’s transportation inspector.
That last role is one that must have been hard to fathom for Nash when he first started 40 years ago.
“When I first came here, it wasn’t a good environment for a black person,” Nash said. “It was really tough back then.”
He said he was tempted to quit more than once, but was talked out of it. That not only defined his character, but also the county’s public works department by the way he led those who worked under his supervision.
“My wife, she said, ‘you know, you’re not a quitter,’” Nash said. “I wanted to break the mold for other black people, so I stuck with it. When I made supervisor, I treated everybody equally.
“They loved it. I didn’t ask one to do anything that I wouldn’t ask the other to do,” he said.
Nash became a supervisor in the early 1980s and earned the respect of those who worked with and for him.
“He was always a good example for the other men to follow,” Newton County Chair Keith Ellis said. “I think when you have someone stick around that long, and they were good at it, they were liked and respected by fellow workers too.”
One of the reasons Nash was good at his job, and stuck with it for 40 years, was that he enjoyed it. He loves being outdoors, and loved working for the public.
“Most people who have ridden up and down the road have seen me at some point or another fixing potholes or working on drainage problems and stuff liked that,” Nash said.
He has worked with several pieces of equipment on the roads of Newton County when it was speckled with dirt roads, and when it became a web of pavement.
“I think it’s wonderful to have somebody that served Newton County citizens that long,” Ellis said. “Especially when you think about all the roads he’s put a mark on.”
Nash, who was born in Newborn and attended East Newton Elementary school, is planning on staying in the county he has lived in his whole life. Though he is retired, he won’t be out of work. Nash said he plans on working on his two pieces of properties, keeping up with his rental house, mowing lawns and helping others.
“I hope he enjoys his retirement but I expect he’s probably going to g back to work doing something soon,” Ellis said.