Buren Williford was born in Wilson County, North Carolina in 1934, just years after the Great Depression had shattered the nation’s economic strength. As he grew, Buren learned responsibility and the value of hard work, first while working on his family’s farm, then when he began driving a school bus at age 16. Following his high school graduation in 1952, Buren worked for a Rocky Mount construction firm before joining a local mechanical contractor in Wilson. In 1956, Buren married Peggy Strickland. She would be his love and support for the next fifty plus years.
In 1963, in an effort to acquire sales experience, Buren began working for Tharrington Industries in Rocky Mount, selling heating equipment and oil and gas fired tobacco curers in North and South Carolina. During that same year, he received guidance and assistance from a friend in Raleigh, Consulting Engineer Thomas Cox Powell, PE, and an NC State Engineering Professor, L.L. Vaughn. They assisted him in preparing for the state mechanical licensing exam. With their help, Buren passed the exam, and became one of the earliest licensed mechanical contractors in North Carolina. At the time, he was one of only 2,000.
When SPC opened, there were only two employees, Buren and his wife Peggy. While Buren put in the labor and mechanical expertise, Peggy insured that the company’s finances were in order. Their hard work for the first few years built the foundation for SPC and guaranteed that the company would be ready for the big changes that would occur in the years to come.
In the summer of 1965, Buren asked the President of the Bank of Rocky Mount, Mr. Young Pulley, to help him obtain a Small Business Administration Loan. The application required an ample amount of paperwork which included references from local engineers and banks, and a complete business plan. With Mr. Pulley’s help, the application was submitted and approved, and he is owed a debt of gratitude for his assistance in the approval of that loan. Part of Mr. Pulley’s legacy was helping young, ambitious individuals start their own businesses. Without this loan, there would be no Southern Piping Company.