RG LeTourneau – Earthmoving Innovator

RG_LeTourneauRG LeTourneau is perhaps the most inspiring Christian inventor, businessman and entrepreneur the world has ever seen. A sixth grade dropout, Robert Gilmore “RG” LeTourneau went on to become the leading earth moving machinery manufacturer of his day with plants on 4 continents, more than 300 patents to his name and major contributions to road construction and heavy equipment that forever changed the world.  Most importantly, his contribution to the advancement of the Gospel ranks him among the greatest of Christian Businessmen of all time. Famous for living on 10% of his income and giving 90% to the spread of the Gospel, LeTourneau exemplified what a Christian businessman should be.

RG LeTourneau dropped out of school and began working in an iron foundry at the age of 14, in the year 1901. Numerous tradesmen jobs later, he discovered a passion for machinery, initially as an auto mechanic, and later as the manufacturer of the largest earth moving equipment on the planet. At the age of 28, he returned from a period with the Navy serving our country in World War I to a car dealership, of which he was half owner, that was steeped in debt due to a partner who took to drinking. LeTourneau removed himself from the business with $5,000 in debt. The year was 1915. Ouch. Jobless and beyond broke, he jumped at the opportunity to level some land for a wealthy rancher. RG claimed that this experience was the most satisfying job he had ever held. 

LeTourneau slowly expanded to larger and larger land leveling contracts. He continually under-bid his competitors to win jobs and would scramble to invent machines to speed up the work and keep him from going broke. Although there were many technological advances in other areas of commerce in the early 1900s, in the world of earth moving at the time, it was still in the stone age. Roads were built by employing large numbers of men with shovels and utilizing mules to drag small plows. RG LeTourneau was among the first road construction contractors to introduce machinery to moving earth.

The year was 1919 and as a Christian, he felt the tug to be doing more for God. He went to his pastor, Reverend Devol, for advice. RG thought that anyone who was wholly committed to Christ had to become a pastor or a missionary to truly fulfill the great commission. After deep prayer with his pastor, RG LeTourneau was shocked to hear Rev. Duvol say the words that guided him for the rest of his life, “God needs businessmen too.” This was a revelation to RG. He immediately began to consider his business to be in partnership with God.

Still, RG LeTourneau was puzzled as to why God would choose him to be His businessman.  Especially when, at the age of 40, in the year 1927, a big construction job went bad and put him $100,000 in debt. But as RG remarked later, after seeing what God could do to restore a business and a life, “He uses the weak to confound the mighty.” For history buffs, the end of the 1920s marked a unique event in American history, the start of the Great Depression. Not exactly the best time to be up to your eyeballs in debt and uncertain as to how to feed your wife and kids. 

The following story highlights a miracle that God performed while RG faithfully served God, not man. The surety company that had backed RG LeTourneau on the construction job that posted the $100,000 loss was going to see to it that RG paid them back every penny owed. So on LeTourneau’s next job, the surety company demanded RG work on Sundays or else they would foreclose on his business, his house, everything. Since RG’s business partner was God, he gave the problem to God to solve. The owner of the surety company, Mr. Hall, boarded a train to officially shut LeTourneau down, but upon arrival to the job site the next day, something miraculous occurred. The surety man had a change of heart and allowed RG to continue.

Although the job was completed without working on Sundays, RG was still deep in debt. He was able to buy some time with his creditors by committing to improve his financial reporting. The surety company installed an accountant named Mr. Frost to reign in the books. What Mr. Frost found was worse than he had originally expected.

Meanwhile, RG had skipped his yearly missions pledge the year before so he was committed to making good with the Lord. He told Mr. Frost that he had pledged $5,000 to his church for missions. Mr. Frost couldn’t believe it. RG was so far behind, even thinking of donating to the Lord was out of the question. Mr. Frost didn’t realize who RG was partners in business with. Unbelievably, the business managed to stay afloat and the missions commitment was paid in full that year. Then, his business hit a breakthrough.

For years, RG LeTourneau had sold the machinery he had built for himself when he got a little behind financially. Although he still considered himself, first and foremost, a road construction contractor, the selling of his earth moving equipment inventions had been a profitable sideline for him. RG’s attorney hinted at the idea of solving his financial woes by going full force into the manufacturing business rather than rolling the dice on the ups and downs of big construction jobs. RG then turned his complete focus to the manufacturing of his machinery inventions. After that, his financial woes were a thing of the past. The following are the revenue results his manufacturing business produced during a time when the rest of the country was plagued with the Great Depression:

Year 1932 – Net Profit: $52,055.61
Year 1934 – Net Profit: $340,275.49 
Year 1938 – Net Profit: $1,412,465.68

In 1935, with the gigantic profits pouring out of the manufacturing business, at the gentle suggestion of his wife Evelyn, they transitioned to a 90/10 split with the Lord. 90% went to the Lord and 10% went to RG and Evelyn. LeTourneau was fond of remarking, “It’s not how much of my money I give to God, but how much of God’s money I keep for myself.” With the money, they established the LeTourneau Foundation to manage the administration of donations. By 1959, after giving $10 Million in donations to religious and educational works, the LeTourneau Foundation was still worth some $40 Million.

In that same year, 1935, RG LeTourneau overcame a lifelong fear of public speaking and gave his first speech at the opening of his newest plant, to which he urged his fellow Christians in the room to do more for the Lord in their businesses. In attendance at the presentation were several area pastors, who immediately requested he speak to their congregation about Christianity and business. This was the beginning of a lifelong commitment to speaking on Christians in business. In later years, with the profits from his business, he was able to purchase airplanes so that he could speak to more and more audiences around the world.

RG LeTourneau was a mighty man of God whose life continues to inspire Christians in Business to this day. To learn even more, read the detailed account of his life, in his own words, in the book, Mover of Mountains and Men.

Mover of Mountains and Men

Comments

  1. Sydney Davis Young Letourneau says:

    Where did his money go after he died? I am his great great great grand daughter, and my family was left behind with nothing. Has it all gone to the Lord? Churches? Colleges?

    I am truly blessed to call myself apart of the Letourneau family.
    Did the depression impact his family’s finances? My dad told me RG’s son was murdered for the money, and MY uncle was almost kidnapped out of the hospital at birth to be held at ransom for the money..
    WHERE HAS IT GONE?

  2. Michael Child`s says:

    I`m sorry for my bad english and my spelling mistakes,I`m a french-canadian and also a christian . In january 1975,just after the collapse of the South Vietnam in the hands of the communists, I accepted the Lord Jesus as my savior and I discovered that R.G. LeTourneau was a christian like me.At my point of view,the attitude of R.G.LeTourneau about his manor to live a christian life with 10% of his income and giving 90% to the spread of the Gospel is good .That prove that all person who trusth the God of the Bible,can trusth in the Lord Jesus for the rest of his life on earth.The only person who can save your life,your soul, your mariage, is the Lord Jesus .After the rapture, or when you will die,you get the eternal life in Heaven with the Lord Jesus .Life with the Gospel of Christ,are good for your own life,your family,your job and your boss,or your own business .It also good for your city,your state (in U.S.A.)and your belover country . God bless all of you! Michael Child`s

  3. After reading some of the stories of Mr. LeTourneau, I find it very exciting to believe that a loving God can actually bless a man with very little education and especially a man who lived in Stockton, Ca where they say is the worst city to live. I Bare to differ, why? Because I live where this great man started . See I Believe that its not just about how smart a person really is, but how much your willing to believe and have faith. Mr. Tourneau’s faith in God is what prospered him. He believed it so much he was willing to open up himself to the visions and plans for his life. “God is no respecter of persons, but He is a respecter of faith”. Because of Faith, Mr. Tourneau lived out his divine purpose through building this wonderful machines we now use. Are you looking to be a person of vision? then let me encourage you to put your trust in the Lord, just as Mr Tourneau did. “God wants to impregnate you with vision”. Habakkuk 2:2-4 Old Testament. This man wasn’t religious, he had a divine relationship! For the young grand daughter who is wondering what happen to the money, let me encourage you don’t worry about money the God who prospered your grandfather can do the same for you.

  4. David Woertendyke says:

    To Whom It May Concern,
    I am a retired high school English teacher. My wife and I moved to Woodstock, Ga nearly nine years ago to be near kids and grandkids. Soon after we moved here, we joined First Baptist Woodstock (FBCW.org) and came under the preaching and teaching of Dr. Johnny Hunt. In the years that follow we have had two occasions to visit the Georgia Baptist Conference Center in Toccoa, GA. The purpose of my note is to express deep concern for the money and manpower needed to sustain this facility. From what I hear, they operate on a shoestring.
    From the Center’s history, I can see why your foundation must also have a special place in your corporate heart for this center. As I recently participated in a Sr. Adult retreat there, I have prayed and a couple of ideas have come to mind. Here they are:

    1) Could your organization and perhaps others (Hobby Lobby, Chik-fil-A, etc.) take on the revitalization of this entire campus?

    2) Could the campus be divided into, say, several ongoing ministries. We have here @ Woodstock an addiction recovery ministry (HopeQuest). It has a success rate of over 80%! Could, perhaps…say, a portion of the Conference Center be retrofit (and staffed) for such a program. The summer youth and other “guest” programs could, of course, remain a vital component, but as I see it, the present facility is absolutely “made” for such a redesign.

    3) These are the “times” when such a multi-purpose facility is needed!

    Thank you for your consideration and response to my note. I would appreciate the contact information you might have to offer for any other folks who might need to hear my thoughts.

    Joy in Jesus, David Woertendyke

    P.S. My late father was a radio operator on Liberty ships during WWII. As I preached under the Center’s Liberty Ship dome and looked at the Center’s welded, Liberty Ship bulk head walls, I was deeply moved. WHAT a physical legacy Mr. LeTourneau has left in that campus alone!

  5. David Woertendyke says:

    P. P. S.
    I just revisited the top of this site’s page. WHAT a list of like-minded and like-dedicated businessmen! PLEASE, if you will, forward my note to as many of them as possible! Thank you!

    Joy in Jesus, David Woertendyke

    jwoert@juno.com

  6. Karin Tucker says:

    To the great grand daughter-He obviously wanted to earn money for the Lord and not his distant offspring. He had a right to do what he wanted with the money he earned. You can earn your own money. Work hard and ask for the Lord’s blessing-He is generous!

  7. Mikel Koch says:

    I just recently heard of RG and had to google him. I have an invention that i am hoping to use to engage in the fight against child trafficking. When i first thought of the design for this beach product , I thought of the boy that offered Jesus his five barely loaves and two small fish. In the boys hands it would have fed him, but in His hands it would feed thousands… and the boy knew it. Faith of a child still spoken of today. I hope to have that faith and to see this product prosper in His hands. I will be exceedingly blessed to eat from the scraps. Pray for me, God Bless.

  8. Mikel Koch says:

    P.S. What an Amazing life and testimony for RG. What an inspiration!

  9. As for an fellow Christian businessman, for years I have a belief and an conviction that as an employer of men , you not only hire an good man you hire hisffamily. Contrary to modern day selfishness we must before we are blessed with any fame , fortune, admiration or respect; we must enrich others with what our Lord And Savior have given us our gifts, talents, resources our compassion , love of country etc. Mr. Letourneau is still today inspire’s as we as well as him we must impact a person first not impress . We must not reach out and just shake an man hand with our nice clothes, our charisma no that want work. Shaking an man had is quick with very little effort, take a few more minutes and reach down lift an man up, find out what makes ticks, encouraged him , most important impact his life!! As for the grand daughter not having any inheritance , earn it like mr. R G . Well I have had the blessing of hiring mr. Latourneau great grandson Ben for well over a year before I Knew he was his great grandson. Ben will be successful with no college degree yet and no real money he pose that one great trait his great grandfather showed us all , the willingness to learn and stay an young man of honesty and the love of family, friends and most important love of Christ.Sincerely Andy Hutson Rincon Ga.

  10. Dick Burmeister says:

    Mr. LeTourneau is also quoted as having said “I shovel money out, and God shovels it back…but God has a bigger shovel!”

  11. Dear Mr. leTourneau

    I’am writng to you to asked if you can direct me to someone that can help me get licencing
    for and improvement invention. I do not have the finances to get a patent. So i would like
    to get this out to the public it would save people and awfully lot of money especially if they want to change the decor of there rooms,it would also be advantage for hospitals
    hotels or any place that there are windows. the invention is and and improvement for the venetian blinds. I would even consider selling it , this would also be a blessing

    Like you I,am a giver and would love to be able to help thoes in need,
    I thanyou for taking the time to respond back to m

    PRAYERFULLY SUBMITTED

    Isabelle Miller

  12. Makanjuola Tunde says:

    God’s visions are indeed global and trans-generational! You are an inspiration RG!

  13. Emmanuel Zoe says:

    Wow! Mr. R. G. Letourneau… A great blessing and inspiration! All praise and glory to our Father for this grace n ability we have as His children!

  14. virgilio caina says:

    GOD knows 6billion people individually and those unborn children( don’t know how many more to come!) who will experience the Life on this Planet.
    It’s all written, in the Bible, that every human being is unique and only one and the evidence clearly shows that our Fingerprint and Iris will distinguished our real identity in seconds.
    The Devil is here on the face of the earth, without Nationality, without a Country without Identity. Be careful Ladies and Gentleman, Trust GOD with all your heart, Don’t Fall Prey to him(The Devil) and follow where he’s heading, otherwise you will be lost far away from our Lord, Jesus Christ, the only one who saw “The Creator”……

  15. Deana G. Ruiz says:

    Wow! another inspiration.

  16. Norman Strohdach says:

    We invented a toilet seat for cats and last week attended the world’s largest pet show where we now (after the show) have 7 HUGE retailers wanting to sell our product! This includes Wal-Mart, Amazon, Bed Bath Beyond PetSmart and others. Early on we committed 50% of our profits to Kingdom sake works. This was vowed before my best friend and prayer warrior shared the story of Mr Latourneau with me. My wife and I can see the Lords hand in all we do, especially now with His blessing on our (HIS) business. We encourage ALL Christians to follow in Mr. Latourneau’s example and just wait to see what our Lord will do!

  17. Thompson Chitsa says:

    Inspirational story to us young entrepreneurs. Glory be to God

  18. Darren Smalley says:

    If you have $1 and cannot give 90c, you won’t be able to manage the larger. The choice is yours.

  19. Daniel Ulysse says:

    What an amazing, uplifting and inspiring story! RG Letourneau a godly man that reminds us of the faithfulness if God. As I was reading this article the song “Great is thy faithfulness o God my Father” came to my heart. Great is thy faithfulness Father God, thank you for directing me to this article that I found as I was doing a google search looking for Christian businessman. This is food to my soul. I learn about the importance of trusting God regardless of our circumstances. I was born in Haiti from a Christian, moved to the US in 1981 at the time of the Cuban Haitian crisis in Florida. Growing up in Haiti I saw first hand the hardship of my countrymen. I became a pastor serving both the Haitian communities in the Diaspora and the community at large. However its been a real burden for me to figure out what to do to do beside preaching to make a difference in the lives of the under served, poor, oppressed and marginalized Haitians. After my ordination I realized that my calling wasn’t in leading a church but rather to empower my people not only spiritually, but also economically and socially I became a Social entrepreneur. I’m presently the founder and CEO of Groupe Intermonde, SA a company built by faith to bring sustainable development in nor thern Haiti. I trust God to bless me beyond measure and that I follow RG’s life example. Also I’d like to meet and partner with Christian entrepreneurs who would like to invest in Haiti.
    Fraternally in Christ,
    Rev. Daniel Ulysse, CEO
    Groupe Intermonde, SA

  20. Mr R G inspired me as a teen-age boy when he spoke to the men of our church in Dallas, TX in the late 1950’s. Many of the truths he shared and presented in his life-work have been reproduced in my own amazing journey.
    Our own disciples of Jesus Christ recently paid for publishing “Please Become Our Disciple”: To Become A Disciple Maker for Jesus Christ ISBN: 978-1-4908-6158-6, with many excerpts available on YouTube.com (Jon Dean Smith).
    Thanks so much to Mr RG and his family for their wonderful examples of Christlike living in a modern world

  21. Paul De Bow ,presidental candidate says:

    Mr Le Tourneau visited our church when I was but an age of eight or nine, the one thing I remembered was his generosity. Early on I mastered the skill of never leaving a paper trail and at retirement it came to haunt me by the way of social security, not to mention my short formal education. But for God ,my life would have been a waste. I have been blest with many talents and skills. the business world has gained me much experience and one of the greatest teachings is that any loses are stepping stones too higher ground. Passing on to others and generosity and wisdom may bring to a place you never expected as I find myself ,a presidential candidate with the soul purpose of bringing God back to our nation as we stand at the threshold of eternity. God spare America if we will only repent.Pp

  22. enyidado otabil says:

    ‘God needs businessmen too’ – a great revelation and a relief for all of us looking to find God’s chosen path for our lives. Timely advice for a man at a crossroads. God bless that Pastor. He fulfilled his mission in life just as much as RG did. May the counsel of the Lord rule and reign in our lives always. Amen.

  23. Geo says:

    The son of RG LeTourneau was a classmate of my Dad I remember hearing. That would have placed him at University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana, 1941. If not there then Oberlin Ohio 1940 or Atlantic City High four years earlier. Choose one, as my Dad’s yearbooks have gone astray in a personal misfortune but if this lead helps the family member I am happy.

  24. Phong Le says:

    Dear All,

    We are a small group of Christian entrepreneurs in healthy food restaurant industry. We believe that “we are what we eat” and our body is the temple of God. Our foods are mostly made from Hormones Free, No Antibotic Beef with organic healthy ingredients. Our goal is to build a brand that can be multiplied into many locations such other Christian chain restaurants : Chick Fil A or In & Out Burger. Unfortunately, after two years in business, we are about running out of cash flow to operate and banks now and day would not want lend us. Any sources of investment funding or partnership that can help us to continue in business for God’s will are greatly appreciated. Here is our website : http://www.kobehouseUSA.com ,contact email: lephong888@gmail.com. Thank you and may God bless all of you.

  25. I started working for LeTourneau in Longview, Texas after high school in 1966 as a trainee welder. I wasn’t a Christian but was very impressed with him and his company. He used to come out and preach sometimes and you would still be on payroll if you chose to listen. He lived very modestly and actual in the same neighborhood as the plant. He built houses that were affordable behind his house for all his employees if they chose to live there. You could make payments of $40.00 a month. His house was a nice brick home, but nothing at all fancy. In today’s market probably in the $80,000 to $100,000.00 range. He drove a beetle VW most of the time. I later became a Christian and went far in my welding trade which turned into more. I have nothing but good to say about him.

  26. Sunny Joseph says:

    Dear Missionary, its great inspiration for me to work for Lord even when we work full time. Thanks for your commitment to Lord even when you are in lose.

  27. Omole Peter says:

    God bless RG legacy and nowadays Xtians..

  28. kennedy says:

    I follow the link of Pastor sam Adeyemi in Nigeria to know about the man called RG Le tourneau, when I read what this great man have achieved partner with God with his substance is an inspiration to my soul and likewise gave me hope that in Jesus I can make it. God bless your soul RG.

  29. Dr Sam says:

    I remember meeting Mrs. LeTourneau during me first year of college at the school Mr. LeTourneau founded. Kind and very gracious woman. Folks in his companies and outside spoke very kindly of both of them. He was a pretty amazing guy and inventor. Was responsible for funding the establishment of Missionary Alliance churches in Peru, which are some of the largest in the country.

  30. Jim Dierickx says:

    In am so glad my pastor gave me this book way back, un mid 1990’s. When I read his book very similar to my business resurrection story. I am so glad I had him as a role model to run with.

  31. Big Jim says:

    RG LeTourneau has been a big inspiration for me, he understood certain truths that are essential to success in partnering with the Lord. Firstly he was humble and grasped the importance of humility. He demonstrated this by giving the Lord the glory for all his successes. RG knew that whether his success through innovation was a result of innate ability or he was being inspired by the Holy Spirit, it was the Lord’s doing and always to the Lord’s credit. It seems he well understood Christ’s Words, “Without Me you can do nothing”. I live in Southern Africa and I have my own vision which has been many, many years in the making: it is a vision that involves using profit from mineral resources to establish training colleges for the trades in conjunction with Christian teaching so that young people can provide for their families to God’s glory. Please pray for me and those who will partner me. Thank-you.

  32. king Onesimus says:

    wow! inspiring! the Word works for whoever is willing to believe and do! thank you for this

  33. izuchukwu says:

    I RG bless your soul for living foot prints in sand of time

  34. Noel Bamford says:

    I only recently, very recently, read Mr LeTourneau’s book what an enjoyable read:
    * Stimulating
    * Amusing
    * Inspiring
    * Uplifting
    Need I say more?

  35. Gisèle Létourneau says:

    I am a Létourneau from province of Québec, Canada. The same Lineage of R.G. and it’s appear to me reading his story that Mr. Le Tourneau was as good as almost all of Létourneau I know.
    My father was born in 1894, seem he was almost the same age of R.G. My father used to talk about a cousin going in U.S.A. invented the Big machinery we can see in Canada, specially in the West province….One of my nephwew used to Drive that big machinery and he was stunned when I told him that Lé Tourneau machinery was related with us. So I’am very proud to be related with that Mr. R.G. Of course I’am a French Canadian and I didn’t wrote in English for so many years I lost a fluent writting but I still read english to keep my english, Excuse the errors in that post…Truly inspired by this man….

  36. Clara says:

    What an inspiring story!!! I am truly blessed to read about this amazing man. Mr RG Letourneau. I say Thank you JEHOVAH.

  37. BOYD says:

    Christian Business Man and Inventor. Thanks to Bishop Abioye for opening my eyes to this great man of God and several others. Gives me a cheap path to my destiny and am no more in darkness as regard to what to do in pursuit of the business.

  38. George Julius says:

    God had ordained such a day like this for me! i have been struggling to know my purpose now I have known the secret.”Just partner with God”
    Thank you Pastor Precious of winners chapel Nairobi for drawing my attention to life of RG.

  39. Cyril Otali says:

    I learn a lot from this man! I am a farmer and a food processor. I feed many and I want to be God’s businessman.

  40. John D Barber says:

    It’s a true Blessing to see a successful Christian who puts all praise and glory for their success, for the Lord! I have an invention that has been proven to be successful. I’m trying to find an investor to help me bring “Squeezers “, to the public. I have big plans for the Lord and give our Father all praise and glory!

  41. Gene Harrison says:

    My dad worked for Mr. RG LeTourneau at the LeTourneau Steel Plant in Toccoa, Ga. in the early to mid 1950s. He has great respect for Mr. LeTourneau. My Dad is 91 and dying from liver cancer, but he is a Christian and raised us in a Christian home with Biblical values. He knows where he is going and is ready to go.

Trackbacks

  1. […] to read it. It's very inspiring or at least it was to me… and definitely; worth the read. RG LeTourneau ? Christian Businessman & Inventor This one first. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._G._LeTourneau This one second. Truly an amazing […]

Speak Your Mind

*