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The MRCA McCawley Award

The James Q. McCawley Award is the highest honor that can be bestowed by the Midwest Roofing Contractors Association. The award is presented annually to an individual in recognition for outstanding service to the roofing industry.

The award was established in 1969 and is named after James Q. McCawley who dedicated his life to the advancement of the roofing industry in innumerable ways. MRCA established this award in recognition of his devotion to the roofing industry.

Who was James Q. McCawley

James Q. McCawley was born in 1899 in Glasgow, Scotland, and came from a family intimately connected with the roofing industry. His grandfather, a cooper, sold barrels to the infant coal tar pitch roofing industry in America. James was educated at St. Joseph’s College and the Royal Technical College in Scotland, and New York University.

James held a card in the carpenters’ union and worked as a roofing mechanic. He went into business for himself first as a building contractor and then as a roofing contractor. He was a member of President Roosevelt’s Construction Industry Council and a member of the U.S. Labor Department’s Federal Apprenticeship Committee.

James was an acknowledged eccentric, and while not ambitious for himself, was indefatigable in his devotion to the roofing industry. Along with his wit, he had a brilliant mind and was always available for consultation to every local, regional, or national association that requested help.

In 1939, James took over the management of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA). In the same year his textbook on Roofing, Estimating, Applying, and Repairing was published. A second, updated edition was published in 1959. In 1940, while still NRCA Executive Secretary, James taught roofing, sheet metal work and airplane drafting.

It should be noted that when James took over NRCA, it had 10 paying members and was, in fact, bankrupt. With borrowed capital, he started the National Roofer magazine to provide an income to the association and membership rose to 400 members within five years. A conflict arose when the NRCA Board of Directors decided that the publication of the National Roofer magazine should be discontinued and James disagreed. After 13 years of service to NRCA, he resigned and purchased the magazine from them. In 1959, the title of the magazine was changed to American Roofer and Building Improvement Contractor.

James was a firm believer in international contacts between businessmen. He believed that businessmen, in their own trade, could do more to cement international relations than diplomats could. He also organized trips to Europe in 1960, 1962 and 1964. These trips took roofing contractors, roofing manufacturers and other roofing industry personnel to all the major cities in Europe. In 1967 he planned a “Roofs Around the World” tour as a result of invitations sent by roofing organizations in the Far East, Australia, New Zealand and India.

In February of 1969, James died from a massive cerebral hemorrhage. His death came 24 hours after the March issue of his magazine had gone to press and 24 hours before he was to leave for the NRCA Convention in San Francisco. It was the first convention he missed in 45 years.

In recognition of the devotion given in his life to the industry, MRCA established the James Q. McCawley Award, which was first presented in 1969. This award has been presented each year to an individual in recognition for outstanding service to the roofing industry.

McCawley Award Recipients