Sam Murphree was born in Troy, Alabama, son of banker Joel Dyer Murphree, II and Mary Elizabeth Barrow Murphree.
He attended Troy public schools during his early years, but went to high school at Marion Military Institute, graduating in 1922. Due to his young age, he was not drafted into military service during World War I.
Sam attended the University of Alabama for one year, but returned home and worked as a bookkeeper at First National Bank of Troy for a year at a salary of $75.00/month. He then determined that banking was not his calling and pursued a degree in civil engineering at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (Auburn University) graduating in 1927.
His first job was as concrete quality assurance supervisor for Dixie Construction Co. (an Alabama Power Co. subsidiary) on Lake Martin dam near Tallassee, Alabama. He was also responsible for operating the central concrete batch plant.
Sam changed jobs in 1929 and became employed by Joe Frank Walters of Troy to supervise a concrete paving job in Fort Smith, Arkansas. This employment also took him to jobs in Bridgeport, Tennessee and Bishopville, S.C.
With the onset of the Great Depression and the onset of asphalt paving, Sam and Joe Frank Walters split ways. During the height of the Depression Sam was unemployed for a couple of years. This period had a great impact on his economic attitude and surely helped develop his fiscal conservative nature.
Sam and W.B. Goodwyn both became qualified as general contractors during the Depression period and decided to see if two struggling young contractors might do better as partners rather than competitors; forming Goodwyn and Murphree, Inc. in 1935.
Two of the early projects completed by Goodwyn and Murphree that are still in use today are the Elm Street railroad overpass at the Troy Public Safety building, completed in 1936 and the Union Hill railroad overpass on US 29 between Troy and Banks, completed in 1937. Both of these projects were completed without the use of engine powered machines. The concrete was mixed by manual labor; placed in wheel barrows that were routed over scaffolding. Footings were dug with pick axes and shovels.
Goodwyn and Murphree closed during the years of World War II due to men going into military service and no civil road construction during the war effort. Sam was too old to serve in this war and spent the war years operating Kilpatrick Oil Co. for a local Troy oil distributor friend, Ralph Kilpatrick, who was called into military service.
After WWII, Goodwyn and Murphree resumed the bridge contracting business, prospering during the 1950’s primarily due to the bridge construction that became prevalent as part of the Jim Folsom era farm to market road program. With the beginning of interstate construction in the 1960’s, Goodwyn and Murphree became active building interstate bridges in Alabama on I-65, I-59, I-10 and I-85. The company grew in size to well over 100 employees.
As interstate construction in Alabama became more and more competitive, Sam and Bill Goodwyn dissolved their business relationship in 1969. Sam continued operating in the original company name until 1974 when the company changed its name to Murphree Bridge Corporation.
During the 1970’s this new company concentrated its efforts primarily on I-10 construction in northwest Florida, working with numerous prime contractors as a bridge subcontractor.
Sam turned the company over to his son Tom Murphree in 1976; officially retiring, but unofficially abreast of things nearly every day until he resigned from Murphree Bridge Corporation’s board of directors in 1997.
The company has entered its third generation of family leadership with employees Andy Murphree, son of Tom Murphree and Frank Murphree, son of Sam Murphree, Jr. being the present principal owners. Frank Murphree was named company president in 2006. Recent years has seen the company more active in railroad and private bridge construction as well as public highway work.
He believed that paying creditors, suppliers, subcontractors and personnel what they were due on time was of highest importance from a business perspective. He believed in keeping payments current.
He believed that a man’s word was his bond and that a handshake was all that was necessary to complete a contract or deal. He would never shop for a lower price once bids were opened.
He served on the Troy City Council for twenty years from 1948-1968. During his tenure each member served as Mayor once each 3 years. During his tenure Troy developed and continues to operate its own electrical distribution system; creating a large source of revenue for the city. A new city hall was constructed (now the public safety headquarters) and plans for Edge Memorial Hospital were finalized.