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Vicksburg History

The Tournalaid house, one of R.G. LeTourneau’s many inventions



Vicksburg riverfront mural: R. G. LeTourneau Industries: Building an Industry and God’s Kingdom. Dedicated: May 14, 2009. Artist Robert Dafford. (Photo by Thomas Parker)

Robert Gilmore “R.G.” LeTourneau, founder of the LeTourneau Corporation, was a prolific inventor. At one time, as many as 2,000 people were employed at the company’s Warren County facility. The area surrounding the plant was a city unto itself with a grocery store, post office, credit union and a couple of hundred concrete bungalows known as Tournalaid houses.

One of the homes’ unique features was piping in the floor that circulated hot water for heat.

The technology for the houses was invented in the 1940s to accommodate returning veterans and a housing shortage after World War II. LeTourneau created a machine with huge tires that would pour the concrete houses in just about one day’s time. LeTourneau used this same technology to build houses for his employees around the world.

This home on MacArthur Street in Longview, Texas, is one of the few Tournalaid homes remaining. (Photo by Les Hassell/Longview News-Journal, used with permission)

Recently, a newspaper article revealed that there are a handful of the houses still standing in Longview, Texas. The 720-square-foot homes with flat roofs were extraordinary in their durability.

LeTourneau had built a series of steel homes for his employees in the 1930s near Peoria, Illinois. When he moved south, he found concrete would be a more cost-effective solution to house his workforce.

During his lifetime, LeTourneau held 299 patents for various equipment and machines. He is the man that invented earth moving equipment and kept building bigger, better and faster machines. All the equipment in use today are direct descendants of his inventions. He also built hundreds of oil rigs using various technologies that have continued to evolve.

R.G. LeTourneau was a devout Christian who reportedly tithed 90% of his income. The Tournalaid houses were one way he took care of his vast workforce. His legacy lives on through the evolution of his inventions.

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