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.