Robert Hugh Daniel (1906-1983) along with his brother, Charles, founded Daniel Construction Company, which grew into one of the largest construction companies in the world with more than 40,000 employees. Daniel also established Central Bank and Trust Company and Daniel Realty Corporation. In addition to managing his companies' activities, Daniel was involved in numerous civic, charitable, and community organizations.
Known by his middle name, Hugh Daniel was born on September 1, 1906, in Elberton, Georgia, to James Fleming Daniel and Leila Mildred Adams Daniel. When he was nine years old, he moved with his family to Anderson, South Carolina. In 1929, Daniel graduated as valedictorian from The Citadel, The Military College of the South, and teamed up with his older brother, Charles, in the lumber business. Charles would later serve in the U.S. Senate representing South Carolina. In 1934, Charles and Hugh formed Daniel Construction Company in Anderson, and in 1935, Hugh moved to Birmingham and opened a branch office there. The following year, Hugh became vice president of the company and married Martha Stone Cobb of Vernon, Lamar County. The couple had two sons. After the United States entered World War II, the Daniel Construction Company won two large contracts to build shipyards in Savannah and Brunswick, Georgia. After these shipyards were completed, Daniel joined the U.S. Navy, where he served as a lieutenant in the Civil Engineering Corps.
After the war, Daniel Construction Company became involved with numerous construction projects throughout the state, including construction of the Physical Plant Building at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute (later Auburn University), renovation of the Lamar County courthouse in Vernon, and construction of a series of marble-faced theaters in Sheffield, Florence, and Tuscumbia. In the decades following World War II, the company flourished and eventually evolved into an international corporation.
In 1955, Daniel became the company's president and treasurer, and in 1964, he was named chairman and chief executive officer (CEO). Soon after assuming that position, Daniel established a real estate division, now known as the Daniel Corporation, to manage company-owned real estate. This real estate arm soon broadened the company's scope to acquiring and developing investment properties and today is a full-service real estate business involved in commercial office, multi-family, and senior living properties. Also in 1964, Hugh Daniel was the financial force behind the founding of Central Bank of the South, now known as BBVA Compass Bank. Daniel served on the bank's board of directors and was also a member of the board of Central Bancshares, Inc., Central Bank's holding company. Compass's headquarters is now located in the 20-story Daniel Building in downtown Birmingham, which was completed in 1970 by Daniel Construction Company and served as the headquarters for both its enterprises. In 1993, Compass Bancshares bought the building to serve as its corporate headquarters.
In 1971, the Daniel Construction Company changed its name to Daniel International Construction Corporation. By 1976, it had approximately 40,000 employees, annual revenues approaching $1 billion, and numerous offices overseas. It was, at the time, the third-largest construction company in the world. In 1977, Daniel International was acquired by Fluor Corporation, currently headquartered in Irving, Texas, and engaged in commercial construction and a myriad of construction projects involving oil and gas, petroleum refining, hydrocarbon transportation, power, energy, homeland security, mining, telecommunications, transportation, and water resources. The real estate division of the old Daniel Construction Company is a separate company now and is known as the Daniel Corporation. It is headquartered in Birmingham. The remainder of the old Daniel Construction Company was known as Fluor Daniel from 1977 until 2002 when it dropped Daniel from its name.
Recognizing his corporate and civic responsibility, Hugh Daniel gave back to his community by serving on numerous boards of directors and boards of trustees, including those of the Alabama Gas Corporation, Birmingham-Southern College, Birmingham Museum of Art, the Birmingham Symphony Association, the Chamber of Commerce, Southern Bank and Trust Company, and U.S. Pipe and Foundry. In addition, he helped found and served two terms as president of the Alabama Chapter of Associated General Contractors of America and was inducted posthumously in 2006 into its hall of fame. Daniel also held honorary degrees from Piedmont College, Birmingham-Southern College, and The Citadel, where the library is named in honor of Hugh and his brother Charles. Hugh was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in 1976 and into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame of the University of Alabama's Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration in 1984. Daniel died on October 27, 1983.