The Passing Of A Captain Of Industry

by Curt Kovener 

We admire entrepreneurs; those who have a vision, take risks, establish a business and keep it going for multiple decades. The Crothersville community lost one of its entrepreneurs last week with the passing of Earl Murray.

Murray, along with his partner, the late Lee ‘Sam’ Royalty established Regal Industries, the local manufacturer of cellulose insulation.

Murray began recycling back in the early 1960’s before the focus on recycling and reusing really took off. I am not so sure that he was that concerned with recycling and the environment as much as taking an abundant resource-used newspapers-and making them into a usable, cost effective way of insulating the houses he was building around Crothersville.

He started what we know as Regal Industries in a garage. He once told me that they would make insulation during the winter as a way of keeping his building crews employed. Then as more homeowners sought ways of making their home heating bills, the new form of “blow-in” insulation became in demand and Murray shifted focus from home construction to insulation manufacturing.

But the equipment to make newspapers into a usable product had to be self-fabricated and Murray used his self taught engineering and home building skills to develop bigger mills to make insulation. Nearly all of the early equipment was Murray made.

Earl & Ruth Murray were next door neighbors of mine though I rarely saw them. Earl would leave early and return late handling all things manufacturing at the plant. The times that I did see him and we exchanged pleasantries, he would be in work clothes with a dusting of ground up newsprint about his person.

With the manufacturing process, the metal mills would generate heat from friction. Heat and paper are not a good combination and there were a few fires at Regal. I recall one particularly bad fire in November which did significant damage to the equipment and arched steel building.

Even as the local fire department was busy extinguishing the fire, Murray, with his partner Sam, were in the company breakroom with paper and pencils making plans on how to make repairs and get back into production. As I recall, 10 days after the fire, they were back making insulation.

Earl told me at the time that he had employees who counted on him for a paycheck and he didn’t want any fire spoiling their Christmas.

Under Earl’s leadership, Regal grew to be one of the largest manufacturers of cellulose in the eastern U.S.- a fact that he rarely touted but was a source of pride for him.

Regal has been turned over to a new generation of entrepreneurs who face the same as well as new and higher technological hurdles as did their founder. His entrepreneurial spirit and hard work ethic will live on.