National Achievement Award Winners
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Award Winners

Achievement Award Winners

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.

William James Hudson

Honored in 1995

Captain Hudson was born in 1886 in Gasden, Alabama. His first job as a small boy was in the boatyard of the American Oak and Leather Company, carrying water to the carpenters who built wooden barges and towboats. Later he caulked boats and barges.

During World War I, he built and repaired ships for Beaumont Dry Docks in Beaumont, Texas and for International shipyards in Orange, Texas. Captain Hudson built a fleet of boats of a type that later became commonly known as “mussel boats,” complete with unique rigging and equipment designed to harvest mussel shells from the bottom of the river.

During the Great Depression, he fished, harvested mussel shells, rafted logs, and built boats to provide the necessities of life. He worked on the construction of the Wheeler and Guntersville Dams and later the Whitesburg Bridge at Huntsville.

Captain Hudson was in charge of the first tugboats used by the Tennessee Valley Authority. During World War II, Captain Hudson was a pilot for Ingalls Shipyard in Decatur, where he tested the first ocean-going Liberty Ships built inland. He also supervised the operation of ten boats, which towed wood and steel barges loaded with oil, gasoline, pumps, and other war materials.

In the late 1940s Captain Hudson served as Captain of the luxury yacht, Tennessee Lady. During the early 1950s Captain Hudson operated a ferry at Stephenson, Alabama, and then at Bridgeport, Alabama, for the State of Alabama. Later he was engaged in commercial fishing on the Tennessee River in Decatur. In all, Captain Hudson, who died in 1967 at the age of 80, piloted 28 boats during his long career as a riverboat captain.

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