For 33 years, Linda Lee has been a proud employee of Walmart. Starting in the sporting goods department and working her way up to department manager, Lee is a familiar face to the customers.
Three years ago, she moved to the bakery department where she spends her days preparing a variety of freshly baked breads and doughnuts.
“It was the best move I ever made,” she said. “I didn’t like doughnuts at first, but they are growing on me.”
Lee enjoys baking the large loaves of French, Italian and garlic bread and rolls in the giant ovens in the store’s bakery department.
“We sell a good bit of bread,” she said. “The home-style rolls are delicious and our hamburger and hot dog buns are a big seller.”
Over the years, Lee has worked at all three of the megastore’s locations in Scottsboro, beginning with the first in the building that is now occupied by J.C. Penney.
She remembers the move to the adjacent building that is now Tractor Supply.
“We moved almost the whole store in shopping carts across the parking lot,” she said with a smile. “It wasn’t far.”
Lee first came to Scottsboro when she was 14 with her parents, William and Shirley Hamilton.
“My dad came here to work for Revere,” she said. “We moved from Baltimore, Maryland, so it was very different.
“I finished school at Scottsboro in 1972 and eventually went back to Maryland,” she said.
Her father retired from Revere, and her mother, an accomplished artist, also retired.
“I came back to Scottsboro and married my husband, William Lee,” she said. “When I started to work for Walmart, my district manager was Richard Lockmiller. That is my current manager, Matt Lockmiller’s dad.”
Lee remembers Matt Lockmiller coming in the store as a young boy and hanging around the sporting goods department.
“He’d mostly stay in the hunting and fishing department,” she said. “I never thought I’d work for him some day.”
Two of Lee’s best memories working for the company are the times Sam Walton, founder of the company, came to Scottsboro.
“I met Sam Walton twice,” she said. “You see pictures of him kneeling down on one knee and talking to people. He was really like that. Whatever everybody perceived about him was true. He was a good man.”
Walton opened the first ‘true’ Walmart on July 2, 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas after owning several Ben Franklin discount stores.
In 1998, Walton was included in Time Magazine’s list of ‘100 most influential people of the 20th Century.’
During his lifetime, he and his wife, Helen, made substantial contributions to religious causes.
“Forbes ranked Sam Walton as the richest person in the United States from 1982 to 1988, ceding the top spot to John Kluge in 1989 when the editors began to credit Walton's fortune jointly to him and his four children. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. also runs Sam's Club warehouse stores. Walmart operates in the U.S. and in 15 international markets, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua and the United Kingdom,” the site said.
With all of his accomplishments and personal kindness toward his employees, Lee was in awe.
“You stand there and think, ‘I’m actually meeting Sam Walton,’” she said. “He actually came to Scottsboro. That was a pretty big deal. I shook his hand once and I’ll never forget that.”
Walton died on Sunday, April 5, 1992.
When he died, the news was relayed by satellite to all 1,960 Wal-Mart stores.
“At the time, his company employed 380,000 people,” the site said. “Annual sales of nearly $50 billion flowed from 1,735 Wal-Marts, 212 Sam’s Clubs, and 13 Supercenters.”
“I love working for Walmart,” Lee said. “Sometimes my old customers come by the bakery and order a cake and say, ‘hi.’”
Sometimes, it takes them a moment to recognize her – and for good reason.
“I had gastric bypass surgery and lost 140 pounds,” she said. “That’s been a while ago, but I look a lot different.”
Lee hopes to retire in a few years, but for now, she is happy to work her shifts and keep customers happy.
“I would like to stay until I’m 65,” she said. “I will be 60 in July.”
After retirement, she will still have a lot going on to keep her and William enjoying life.
“I have two daughters, Andrea Lee, and Alisha White, and four grandkids,’ she said. “That will keep me busy.”