Under the leadership of James Bibler, Bibler Brothers Lumber Company grew to be one of the most progressive and successful operations of its kind in the United States. The family business was established in 1909 when James’ grandfather built a sawmill in Lee Mountain, Arkansas. He died in 1933 and left the company to his sons, including James’ father Odus Bibler. They moved the mill to Russellville in 1961. Bibler left college at Arkansas Tech to begin working at the mill in 1955 and in 1967, at the age of 33, was named president, a position he held until 1998.
Two years later a fire destroyed the mill and Bibler was approached about what they should do. “They (his father and uncles) asked if we should shut it down or build it back,” Bibler recalls. “I said I wanted to build it back, but not the way it was. I wanted to install the most modern equipment on the market. Every time something new came along we would incorporate it into the operation. That was my philosophy throughout my career.”
Bibler saw to it that state-of-the-art equipment was installed that allowed the mill to significantly increase its production capacity and efficiency. “We’d have a log come in on Monday, go back out on Friday as a finished product and it would never be touched by human hands,” he said. Bibler Brothers became the standard for the lumber industry in Arkansas and beyond. “When machinery salesmen would go to our competitors to try to sell them a new piece of equipment they’d ask, ‘What’s Bibler doing?’ I wanted to be at the forefront of the latest technology and get the most out of each log so as to reduce any waste.”
Highlights of his more than 60-year-career included being appointed to the Arkansas Forestry Commission in 1978 and serving as chairman from 1984-2002 when he retired. He also served as President and Chairman of the Board of the Southern Forest Products Association from 1983-1984 and was a member of the Board of Governors of the National Forest Products Association from 1984-1985.