The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

February 22, 2014

Coal industry innovator John ‘Joe’ Childress dies at 73

‘The community is really going to miss him’

— The coal industry has lost a true innovator, designer, mentor and friend in the passing of John J. “Joe” Childress of Daniels.

In the field of coal processing, construction, design and operations, Childress, 73, was an innovator.

A construction worker at heart, he started his career in the early 1960s employed by Roberts & Schaefer Construction Co. as a field manager/construction services with responsibilities for assisting in the design of, and managing the field construction services and “start up” functions for, many coal-processing plants across the country and around the world.

In the mid-1970s, he started his own coal-processing, construction services contract services company, and was successful in leading the wave of new coal-processing design initiatives that are used in plants around the world today. He was one of the first to design and construct a “Feed to Zero” type circuitry.

In the 1990s, he designed and patented the only known MULE (Moveable Unit Low Elevation) coal-processing plant utilizing heavy media circuitry known to be in existence.

Over the course of his

career, he designed, owned, constructed and managed over 35 coal-processing facilities located around the world.

During his time, he worked with, consulted with and trained numerous special associates, many of whom are in leadership positions throughout the coal industry. Associates say he  valued those from whom he learned, and tried to show the same to those that he hired and worked with. They said they feel his loss, but recall fantastic memories and cherished times.

Those who knew Childress say he and his family worked together to make their family and their community more successful.

“The entire family have all been engaged not only in their own personal lives, but have been successful in business and that is something that is important to the whole community because that means other people had jobs and contributed to our community,” Beckley Area Foundation Executive Director Susan Landis said. “They were also the kind of people who have supported a multitude of civic organizations and community projects.

“They would also contribute financially and help lots of organizations and they raised great kids that did the same thing. How much more can we ask for people to contribute, other than be good citizens and be good examples of what parents should do, and be good to your employees?”

Others said they hope Childress’ legacy of innovation will continue with one of his sons.

“Joe was a heck of a guy and the community is really going to miss him,” former owner of Phillips Machines Jack Phillips said. “It’s such a shame. He left here way too early. I’m hoping his son, Joey, will pick up where his dad left off and continue on. Really, his legacy should continue with Joey in charge.

“He changed the coal industry with his cleaning plants. I do know that he built those and made a career out of it. That was rather unique. He started out like most of us, with a normal upbringing and I think he did quite well for himself. He made cleaning plants for mining industries around the country.”

Childress is survived by his life partner and soulmate, Kitty, along with his two sons and families (Joey and Janie, Jay and Nicole, along with his “special buddy” grandsons Chase, Jarrett, and Cooper).

Arrangements are incomplete at this time.

— Reporter Cody Neff contributed to this story.

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