FACETIME- Horn born: Locals take Mississippi award

Jack Horn Jr.

Jack Horn Jr. runs Martin Horn, a homegrown construction company that's built landmarks like the Charlottesville Pavilion, Scott Stadium, and UVA baseball's Davenport Field. So why is he working for free in Mississippi?

Horn points to the persuasive powers of Howard Pape, vice president of Building Goodness Foundation, an organization of skilled construction volunteers who swept into Pearlington, Mississippi, almost as soon as Hurricane Katrina.

"I asked him if there was any way we could participate," recalls Horn. "It didn't take him long to say yes."

Horn made his first foray to Pearlington in July 2006 with a company crew to build sheds for temporary housing. "The heat and humidity in southern Mississippi in July were very memorable," he says.

Since then, he's been down more than a dozen times, working on an even more ambitious project: a new 6,000-square-foot community center to replace one destroyed by the tempest.

When the work required a licensed contractor in Mississippi, "I went to Jackson and sat for the exam," he says. "Now Martin Horn is licensed in Mississippi."

"He's taken the bull by the horn," puns Pape. "He's project manager from a thousand miles away, and he's ahead of schedule."

"I love building," explains Horn. And that enthusiasm will have a Building Goodness Foundation team, including Horn, in Jackson, Mississippi, on April 25 to receive the Governor's Initiative for Volunteer Excellence. 

"That's pretty amazing considering there must be hundreds of nonprofits working in Mississippi after Katrina," Horn says, but then he lists the 18,000 man-hours Building Goodness has put in, not including 8,000 from architects led by VMDO and from Martin Horn.

His father started the company in 1979 after working 20 years for R.E. Lee. "My dad and I didn't get along real well because I dropped out of college at 22," says Horn. He worked construction in Florida, then joined his father in 1982. "It was good working for him. We re-established a new relationship," he says.

Horn credits "virtually every contractor in Charlottesville" with taking part in the Pearlington project. "I don't think it requires a whole bunch of inspiration for people to do this," he says.

His own most terrifying moment with near hurricane-force winds took place in Charlottesville, not the Gulf Coast. "I was underneath the canvas [of the Charlottesville Pavilion] when it ripped with the wind coming from the north," he recalls. "The next thing I know, pieces of fabric were blowing past me. It was my worst nightmare."

Martin Horn is finishing the new school of nursing at UVA, and he's worked on Klockner Stadium and the Dave Matthews Band's Haunted Hollow studio. "It's pretty satisfying to drive around Charlottesville and see the things you've done," says the self-described Charlottesville boy.

And he acknowledges, "One of the reasons Building Goodness is so easy to participate in– I realize how lucky I am."