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Bailey, M. Bobbie (1928-2015) | Kennesaw State University Archives

Name: Bailey, M. Bobbie (1928-2015)
Fuller Form: Mary Bobbie Bailey


Historical Note:

Mary Bobbie Bailey was born in Roanoke, Alabama, in 1928. She was the third of eight children with humble roots in rural Alabama, who had an early aptitude for mechanics. When she was 10 years old, the Bailey family moved to Atlanta, and at age 15, Bobbie Bailey was looking for something to help the war effort, so she went to work for the Orr Brothers working on burned-out refrigeration compressors. She eventually stayed on after the war, working full-time and attending night school. In 1948, Bobbie Bailey began joint venture with one of the Orr Brothers, Willey Orr, to start the Our-Way Machine Shop on Elizabeth Street in the Virginia-Highlands area. When he retired in 1953, Bobbie Bailey took over as the CEO and organized a new company, Our-Way, Inc. specializing in remanufacturing of commercial refrigeration and air conditioning compressors. The small company quickly grew and built a reputation for high-capacity production and quality results. Then in 1960, another giant in the air-conditioning industry, Copeland Corporation, offered Our-Way the exclusive southeastern contract to remanufacture its compressors, which lead to its great expansion and thus became a large corporation and a major player in the global industry. In that same year, Our-Way, Inc. was formed Our-Way and a new management team was created, which included her sister, Audrey B. Morgan, as executive vice president, and her brother-in-law, Jack Morgan, to manage engineering and quality control. By 1978, the company had outgrown their building on Elizabeth Street, and moved to Tucker, Georgia, and Our-Way, Inc. became the world's largest independent remanufacturer of commercial air conditioning and refrigeration compressors. Bailey served as CEO and sole owner of the company for over 50 years, until 2001, when she sold the business to Carrier Corporation.

In the late 1980s, Bobbie Bailey was approached by Patrick (Pat) Epps, chairman of Atlanta's Epps Aviation Company and President of The Greenland Expedition Society. Epps and a fellow Atlanta aviator and Vice President/Secretary of the society, Richard Taylor, had been trying for years to locate and recover a fleet (known as the "The Lost Squadron") of World War II-era military planes that were buried deep in the glaciers of Greenland. The project involved engineering, technology, and ingenuity, and the team used the manufacturing facilities at Our-Way, Inc., located in Tucker, Ga., to design and fabricate a large drilling device that became known as "The Gopher." Principal contributors of the development team included Bobbie Bailey, Jack Morgan, Bernie Dombrowski, Dick Spohn, Bill Brownlee and Dan Capp which contributed in the development of a cone-shaped melt-down unit and a guidance system to ensure a direct course to the precise location where the planes where buried under the ice. The special equipment was successfully used to melt an access passage to one of the B-17 planes in 1990 and then it was during the expedition of 1992 and with the use of the "Super Gopher" that the crew was able to retrieve a P-38 fighter plane coined the "Glacier Girl."

Besides leading a large and successful corporation, Bobbie Bailey pursued a variety of interests, such as managing the Lorelei Ladies women's softball team, which she did for twenty years beginning in 1960. She also launched two independent record labels in 1981, RX-Melody and Southernaire, and through the former recorded the 25th anniversary album by The Platters. She produced live shows and television, recorded albums, co-owned a music publishing company, established music scholarships and music education programs, served as the trustee of major music organizations, including the Friends of Georgia Music Festival and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. In 2007, Bobbie Bailey was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and presented with its Lifetime Achievement Award for her devotion to promoting the music industry in the state of Georgia. Bobbie Bailey was influential in promoting Atlanta and Georgia as a cultural and business destination, including the creation of the music festival, Light Up Atlanta, and in 1990, she helped to secure Atlanta's bid for the Centennial Olympic Games by raising funds with the help of her sister, Audrey Morgan.

Bobbie Bailey's philanthropic accomplishments are vast, including being the largest benefactor of DeKalb Medical Foundation, and major supporter of the US Fund for UNICEF. She also has a long history with Kennesaw State University (KSU), and in 1993, President Betty Siegel invited Bobbie Bailey to join the school's Foundation Board of Trustees. Her contributions to business and the community prompted KSU to award her with a Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 1998, and has been a long-time benefactor of the university, supporting the women's softball team, supporting scholarships and programs to educate young people, and her generosity launched the Bobbie Bailey Athletic Complex in 2004, the world-class concert hall The Dr. Bobbie Bailey and Family Performance Arts Center, in 2006, and in 2007 helped KSU become an All-Steinway School of Music.

Bobbie Bailey died in Atlanta, Georgia in July 2015, leaving behind a legacy of great achievements as a successful entrepreneur, business leader, her many endeavors, and her philanthropic spirit.

Sources:

~ SC/B/004

~ Bernstein, Susan. The Ultimate Producer: The Inspiring Story of Dr. Bobbie Bailey: Business Leader, Philanthropist, Woman of Action. Kennesaw: Kennesaw State U, 2013. Print.

Note Author: Armando Suarez





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