Photo by Frank Prager
Jerry Tinkey with his wife, Gen. Tinkey received the IMS/Waterways Journal Achievement Award at the Inland Marine Expo in June.
GODFREY — Area resident Jerry Tinkey recently received the prestigious IMS/Waterways Journal Achievement Award in recognition of his efforts sharing his extensive knowledge and experience with fellow mariners. The award was presented at the Inland Marine Expo in St. Louis in June.
Tinkey lives in Godfrey with his wife of 58 years, Gen. They have two daughters and six grandchildren. He is retired from a long and distinguished career in the river industry.
Tinkey, the son of a dredge captain, grew up on and around the rivers in Hamburg, Ill., a small Mississippi River town. During his teen years he and his friends would use the town jon boat to “surf” the wakes of passing steamboats, once accidentally swamping their small boat.
He began work on the river out of high school as a deck hand, eventually rising to become president of a major barge line and chairman of the barge industry’s top trade association. He moved to the Riverbend in 1957 and married his wife, a student nurse at Alton Memorial Hospital.
He planned to join the Navy after high school but was turned down because of an injury, so he worked his way onto the river vessel E.B. Ingram as a deckhand. That led to a job as deckhand on the Mama Lere, where, after five years, he rose to first mate and earned his pilot’s license.
Tinkey’s first pilot’s job was on the Eleanor Gordon, owned by Mid-America Transportation Co., which hauled coal for Peabody Coal Co. For the next 14 years, he worked on company boats until he was asked to come ashore as port captain. Tinkey rose through the ranks at Mid-America, as vice president of traffic and personnel, vice president of operations and eventually president. During his time at Mid-America, Tinkey served on many industry associations and boards, culminating with his chairmanship of the American Waterways Operators. Among his other accomplishments, Tinkey was a founding member of the River Industry Executive Task Force.
The task force played a vital role in 1988 in keeping the Mississippi waterways open during the river’s historic low-water period. He worked to bring together 50 companies that worked with the Coast Guard and Corps of Engineers. Their efforts returned vital river traffic to the waterways when it had previously been closed down.
In 1991, Tinkey joined Ingram Barge Co., where he worked for the next seven years as vice president of operations. Through Ingram, Tinkey helped bring the Seamen’s Church Institute to the rivers and helped the institute establish the Center for Maritime Education.
When he retired from Ingram, Tinkey was asked to join SCI’s staff and help develop an inland river training curriculum.
“My overriding concern was always the safety and well-being of crews, and I’m proud that our industry has been paying ever more attention to that,” he says.
Tinkey explains the vital role safety protocol plays in the river industry.
“At best, it’s a dangerous business,” he notes. “With the cables, ratchets and slick surfaces, safety is a constant challenge.”
Tinkey’s long experience in the industry enabled him to provide valuable input to the development of safety curricula. He notes that final stage of his career was probably the richest experience in his life.
The IMS/Waterways Journal Achievement Award recognizes outstanding career contributions by pioneering members of the river industry.