Where it Began: Yarborough Development
“I had one of those high-pressure sales people,” he said. “This guy came up with a way that I could own the car. My father co-signed it and I had to pay $120 a month. From that I learned you have to go real hard in life to get something and don’t let someone talk you into something.”
Most importantly, that car he purchased for $5,200 in 1955 in Florence, S.C., is the reason Yarborough came to McKeesport, where he one day would own a multimillion dollar company.
Yarborough Development is currently working on the renovation of Baldwin High School and Deer Lakes High School and building Vista Grande on Mt. Washington. His company has built Riverview Nursing Home in McKeesport, McClure Elementary School in White Oak, Mifflin Elementary School in Lincoln Place, Gateway High School in Monroeville, University High School in Morgantown, W. Va., South Fayette High School, and the stadium and bleachers at West Mifflin Area High School, among other projects.
A successful businessman seems like a reach for a boy who grew up on a tobacco farm in Scranton, S.C., with no electricity and a sixth-grade education.
“I felt that I had to work real hard in life because of my education and my background,” Yarborough said.
He actually had to repeat sixth grade because he missed so much school taking care of the farm after his father Ocie Yarborough injured his eye.
Yarborough, at age 15, then worked on various jobs with his grandfather, J.W. Williams, who was a contractor in Fayetteville, N.C. He later worked as a carpenter at Baptist Hospital in Columbia, S.C.
Two friends convinced 17-year old Yarborough to come to McKeesport so they could work construction jobs. He soon also found a job making much more than he was in South Carolina when former business partner Perry Lee Spyres offered him a job making $2.50 an hour as opposed to $1.67. Yarborough met Spyres because the friends he traveled to McKeesport with were working for him and he asked Yarborough to hang doors for him in Dormont.
“Spyres was a good carpenter, but he couldn’t do finish work,” Yarborough said. “ I was a good cabinet maker, could hang doors and all that kind of stuff. He made me an offer. He said if I would stay and take care of the finish work, we’d split everything halfway.”
After working together for about a year, Yarborough said Spyres left the area after going through a divorce in 1959.
He said after Spyres left, the company did a lot of work in Jefferson Hills and Moon Township and worked consistently with Ryan Homes.
The company worked out of Yarborough’s house along Portsmouth Drive, which he bought in 1960 after living in various municipalities. Yarborough then constructed a building at 1700 Washington Blvd., where the business is now.
Yarborough worked under the name Ocie J. Yarborough Carpenter Contractor until 1969, when the company name became Yarborough Construction. In 1975, the company became incorporated as Yarborough Development.
He opened an ice cream shop, OC Treat-N Eat, in the same building as Yarborough Development in 1995. He then sold it in 2000. Yarborough also became part owner of Youghiogheny Country Club in 2007.
“The reason I got into construction is I remember way back thinking there had to be a better way to make a living than farming,” he said. “I got into construction. You made some money, but I really loved it and enjoyed what I was doing.”
Yarborough still visits job sites and often gets projects started in addition to his administrative duties.
He and his wife Sherry live in Port Vue with their two sons.
“Most people in Port Vue know of Jack and the Yarborough family and the positive impact that Yarborough Development has had on the community,” family friend Laura Thompson said. “I think very few people are aware of Jack’s humble beginnings. His is a truly fascinating story full of life lessons from which we can all learn.”
Yarborough still owns the plantation property he grew up on and visits his hometown of Scranton a couple times a year when he vacations in Myrtle Beach, S.C.