Southern Made: The Rocking Chair Man

Greg Harkins has been handcrafting rocking chairs for decades. This Jackson, Mississippi artisan has created chairs for numerous presidents and celebrities, but he's never swayed from his quality, technique, or process. Greg, a seasoned storyteller, guarantees his chairs for a lifetime – his lifetime, that is. Learn more about Greg's story, his skills, and his generous philosophy.

SHOW TRANSCRIPT

[BLANK_AUDIO] See this one right here has got all the weight on that side. And it will very easily, supposedly, fall. [NOISE] [BLANK_AUDIO] I have never cut a tree down this poorly. I was really trying, hoping I could impress y'all with what a forester I was. [LAUGH] And I don't that's gonna impress anybody. [LAUGH] Well come on, let's go. [MUSIC] I never wanted to be the best chair maker in the world. I wanted to make the best chair that Greg Harkins could make. I've made chairs for Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George Bush, Sr., and George Bush, Jr. I'm known for making a fine rocking chair. An indestructible rocking chair. I got started chair making, I moved to my great grandparents house. My great great great grandparents house. Just has something to do between college and graduate school. Met this old man that built chairs. And three and a half four years later I was standing there one day and I was thumbing my chisel. And I was thinking dog gone I had missed graduate school. When I cut a tree down and you start sawing it. [SOUND] It's like openin' up a jewel box. Every board has got somethin' else about it. And you know the next two or three cuts off of that board are gonna be breath takin'. It gives me a high. [MUSIC] What makes a good chair is havin' all of the materials Right. You know, having the dry parts dry, the quality of your lumber, it's a package. This hammer, I bought from Pickens' Hardware 41 years ago. And I've driven up every, Every chair that I have built, every chair. I mean, with the exception of none, with this hammer. [SOUND] You take totally raw material, and go from the time it's a living, breathing standing tree, until it is a piece of furniture. And, depending on your resolve and your abilities, a piece of furniture that'll last 100, 150 years or longer. It's like a religious experience. [BLANK_AUDIO] [MUSIC] Jimmy Carter was personal friends with my banker. And Mr. Mack came by and said I need a chair, need it right now. And I said, well gosh, I don't have one. And he said, well, what about that one right there? I said, well yeah, I guess you could. I didn't want my banker thinking I didn't have any business. So he took that off to Plains, Georgia. I didn't know anything about it for about three or four years that that's where it went. The second chair for Ronald Reagan, my mother got a phone call from Nancy Reagan, and my sweet little momma thought that it was somebody playing a joke on her. And she said, no, this is Nancy Reagan. And then she finally realized, wait a minute, this is Nancy Reagan, you know, like that, and They invited me to the ranch, to bring a chair out there, and all that. And I had never had so much business before in my life. It is actually a testimony to the greatness of this country. That a guy in the South Working out of a little milk barn, has access to the President of the United States. I feel humbled by it. I had the opportunity to do a very unique thing with my life. And I did it. I feel so blessed. [MUSIC] I can't describe it. [MUSIC] I intend on building chairs to the day I die and as long as my chairs survive, a part of me will be here. [MUSIC]
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