Joe McCusker. The career of Joe McCusker, commissioner of water, sewers and lights, at Muskogee, is typical of those which have been followed by many self-made men of this country who have risen to prominence. His life has contained all the chapters of a fascinating biography, including the loss of his father when he was but a child, his subsequent struggles to gain a foothold in the business world, his gradual rise among the world’s workers, and his final attainment of business success and a position of prestige among his fellow citizens.
Mr. McCusker was born in the City of Vicksburg, Mississippi, June 22, 1869, and is a son of Patrick and Catherine (Cannavan) McCusker, natives of Ireland. His father, a soldier in the army of the Confederacy, was one of those captured by the victorious forces of General Grant, at Jeff Davis Island, and after the war went to Vicksburg, where he was engaged in work as a levee and general contractor, as he had been before the war. His war services, however, had undoubtedly undermined his health, and he died in the early part of 1870, when his son, Joe, was but eight months old. His widow survived him until April 29, 1915, and died at her home in Vicksburg, Mississippi. They were married in Vicksburg.
Joe McCusker was brought up in the city of his birth and there received his education in the public schools, although his training in this direction was curtailed by the necessity of his going to work and contributing to the family income. He was therefore a mere lad when he joined the world’s workers, beginning his career by selling newspapers on the streets of Vicksburg, a rough-and-ready school of experience in which he gained his first knowledge of business affairs. During the several years that followed he was variously employed, being ambitious and determined, and any work which presented itself found him a faithful and energetic laborer. Finally he turned his attention to the trade of brick mason, at which he worked for a full year without pay, then becoming a journeyman mason and visiting all the large cities, including New York, Chicago, St. Louis and Denver. He developed later into a general contractor, in which vocation he met with a fair measure of success, and in all devoted sixteen years to the brick mason trade and business.
Mr. McCusker came to Muskogee in May, 1902, and here established himself in business as proprietor of what was known as the “Four Story Peanut Stand,” at the corner of Second and Broadway Streets. His enterprise, energy and originality of ideas made this venture a success, and thus encouraged he entered the restaurant business, in a new building on the same street corner. This business he operated successfully for seven years, or until he was burned out, and in the meantime also established and conducted three other like enterprises, but of these he had disposed. When his place of business was destroyed by fire Mr. McCusker did not re-enter the same line, but turned his attention and abilities to other directions. He was one of the organizers of the Muskogee Vitrified Brick Company, which was capitalized at $30,000, and of which he was one-fourth owner, but in 1911 disposed of his interest in that concern and started on an extended trip through Europe, in which he visited France, England, Scotland and Ireland, and in the latter place made a trip to the birthplace of his parents. He has also traveled extensively in the United States.
For a number of years Mr. McCusker has taken an active participation in democratic politics, and at Muskogee has been one of his party’s most helpful workers. In 1912 he was made the candidate of his party for the office of commissioner of water, sewers and lights for the City of Muskogee, and in the election which followed the citizens showed their faith in his ability by giving him a handsome majority at the polls. Their confidence has been vindicated, for in his official capacity he has rendered valuable and conspicuous service. Mr. McCusker is a Catholic in his religious belief, and is fraternally connected with the Knights of Columbus and the Woodmen of the World. He has a withdrawal card from the Bricklayers’ Union of St. Louis. While he has advanced far since the newsboy and peanut-stand days, Mr. McCusker has not allowed his holdings to spoil him, and he continues to be one of the most genial and companionable of men. In every sense of the word self-made, his example should be one to act as a spur to other poor youths beginning their battle with life, who have no financial assistance or other aiding influences.
Mr. McCusker was married in 1905, to Miss Rose McStravick, who died in 1909, leaving one daughter, Mary Catherine.