Dominique R. McGhee
When you hear the word lineman in a college town, you automatically think of the massive men that wear uniforms and tackle one another.
But in the world of electricity and power, linemen, or trouble men, are the people that are either disconnecting power or weathering storms to reconnect it.
On Dec. 10, 1979, Charles McGhee started working for Entergy. He had been working as a welder for five years and had grown tired of returning home every night covered in black soot.
“An opportunity came about, and I took a pay cut for a better life,” he said.
During that time, there was only a handful of African Americans working there, and there was “a color barrier to be broken.” He felt overworked due to the underlying tension, but did allow that to deter him from his goals.
“I had never quit anything in my life, never ran away from anything, and I wasn’t going to start with this job,” he said.
McGhee said he was no stranger to hard work. He was put in charge of his family’s small farm at the age of 9. He felt that those situations prepared him for the level of work and responsibility he encountered later in life.
However, his previous experiences had not prepared him for the first time he had to climb a pole. This was before the use of cherry pickers, and many re-connections and maintenance was done by physically climbing light poles.
As he climbed his first 85-foot light pole, the thought that raced through his mind was, “What the hell have I done?”
By his second and third time, he was over the jitters and felt that it would be no problem.
McGhee’s scariest experience with the company didn’t come until many years later.
On Aug. 21, 2014, he had an involuntary reflex to dodge a deer while in his truck. That led the nearly 27,000 pound, 30-foot vehicle to turn on its side and slide for 20 to 25 yards down the highway.
“I was more concerned about someone needing me while I was trying to regain control,” he said.
Though the advancement of technology made daily work easier and safer, there was a downside.
“I miss the (friendship) among the crew I worked with before this new technology,” he said. “Those eight and a half years were the best.”
McGhee had managed to break through the unspoken barrier and build strong work relationships with his coworkers hopeing that African Americans could have futures with the company.
“At my level, there are lots of opportunities, but to get into management is a lot more difficult,” he said.
McGhee feels it’s important for the next generation of African Americans to be educated and driven to conquer the color barrier.
“I am not sure if it is an education thing or opportunity thing,” he said. “It’s maybe who you know, rather than what you know.”
McGhee is nearing the end of his career at Entergy and has encountered different people and various situations that have shaped his career.
He only regrets the toll that his ambition took on his personal life after he took a service technician job nearly 20 years ago.
“It was more demanding and took me away from my family too much,” he said.
McGhee’s work schedule usually ranges from 2,080 regular work hours with 1,500 to 1,700 hours of overtime, and this year alone, he took on 2,000 hours in overtime.
He said he appreciates the things he has been able to do with the extra income, but is saddened when thinking about the missed family events and day-to-day activities he missed due to responsibility to his customers.
“I am not able to ignore phone calls just because I am tired or it’s too late at night,” he said.
The message he said he would give his younger self 36 years ago when he began his career is very straight forward.
“I would tell myself that if you want to make a good living, this is a good company,” he said. “Stay focused, stay safe and do the best job you can. Learn as much as you can and work hard.”
He will be going into his 37th year with the company and humorously knows the exact amount of time until his retirement.
As of today, he has 27 months and 21 days left until he will be able to hang up his hard had and switch his worn work boots for house shoes.