The National Achievement Award is the highest honor presented by the National Rivers Hall of Fame to those people who are making significant contributions to America’s waterways. The National Rivers Hall of Fame with members in 36 states is the only national museum telling the stories of the people of America’s rivers.
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Perhaps Jim Walden’s most significant contribution to the river industry was the development of the midstream supply and refueling concept. In the late 1940s, a riverboat captain had to tie up in dock for as long as seven hours just to take on supplies, at that time a loss of up to $100 an hour. Mr. Walden reasoned that if he could provide the supplies midstream, the tows wouldn’t even have to slow down. He determined to try the idea in his hometown, Memphis, Tennessee.
Mr. Walden rented a small boat and arranged to sell groceries on commission for a local Memphis store. The Jim Walden Marine Supply Company was launched – “one of the country’s most unusual and successful supermarkets,” according to a 1950s Popular Science Magazine. The business grew quickly to include other midstream services such as refueling towboats. Mr. Walden commented, “We sold 350,000 gallons of diesel fuel in the first month.”
He established Helena Marine Service, a corporation that became known from Tulsa to Little Rock and from New Orleans to Cincinnati and beyond.
In the early 1970s, Mr. Walden began talking to then U.S. Representative Bill Alexander about the possibility of a harbor facility near Helena. Today, the Helena-West Helena-Phillips County slackwater harbor is a reality. Until his death in 1997, he remained active in the operation of a river terminal as well as the barge fleeting and switching service; at the Mississippi River Bridge at Helena.