Sidney Richardson, who retired two years ago after 72 years as an employee at the Goodyear Gadsden plant, died Friday. He was 92.
Richardson started working for the company June 22, 1943, the same year the local union chapter (United Rubber Workers at the time, United Steel Workers Local 12 since the unions merged in 1995) opened its doors. At the time, the Goodyear plant pumped out 5,000 tires a day, with men working by hand to produce them. Richardson, at 17 years old, was a truck driver.
Over seven decades he held seven positions in the plant: four in the now-closed reclaim plant, one in the mix center, one in calendar/cutters and, for more than two decades before his retirement, one as a forklift driver. He watched the plant grow to more than 2.8 million square feet in size, with output climbing to more than 20,000 tires per day. He saw automation come into the plant, shaving down jobs even as it increased efficiency. He was with the company so long that Goodyear ran out of longevity awards to give him.
“He witnessed the complete evolution of making a tire,” said David Hayes, president of USW Local 12. “Think about all the changes that he saw in his 72 years at the plant.”
Hayes knew “Sid” personally. Richardson called him “Junior,” because Hayes’ father had served as local chapter president for more than two decades. Richardson had, of course, worked with him.
Richardson was known for his dependability, consistency and tireless work ethic. Factory hours are not easy hours, but for Richardson, a full-time job wasn’t enough, even with overtime. He spent 34 years of early mornings delivering The Gadsden Times before punching in at the plant, and his only break in service with Goodyear was from 1944 to 1947, when he joined the U.S. Army.
“He came from that ‘Greatest Generation’ that came up through the Depression. They grew up working,” said Hayes. “Mr. Sid understood that the plant had to be successful for us to be successful, to have a job.”
Richardson retired from his delivery job in 2010, and retired from the Goodyear plant in 2015, with a celebration held at the Local 12 lodge.
He and his wife, Lynn, were married for 49 years, and had seven children.
A Goodyear Americas spokesperson said, in an email sent Monday afternon, "We deeply mourn the loss of Sid Richardson. He was a good, hardworking man who contributed greatly to Goodyear over his long, remarkable career. Sid was a valued, irreplaceable member of the Goodyear-Gadsden family and will be sorely missed."
A plaque quoting Richardson hangs in the entryway of the Goodyear plant. Hayes said that it was his advice to young workers, though it applies to anyone: “Put forth a lot of effort. Put one foot in front of the other, and you can get through anything.”
Funeral service will be at 1 p.m. Thursday at Friendship Baptist Church, 234 N. Sixth St., Gadsden. Interment will be at Rainbow Memorial Gardens in Rainbow City. Public viewing will be from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Gadsden Memorial Funeral Home.