Mike Rushing looked after others, both on the water and off.
As the founder of Rushing Marine Service LLC, Rushing, of Jackson, Mo., provided consulting services and training on U.S. Coast Guard and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.
For him, it all came down to safety for mariners, something he knew a lot about following a career on the river that began at the age of 12.
Rushing died March 5 at St. Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau, Mo., at the age of 79. In nominating him for the IMX Achievement Award, Kevin Mullen, owner of SCORE Maritime Services LLC, recalled a favorite quote he attributed to Rushing.
“We may never ever get the credit, and truthfully who gets the credit is not important, but we may help companies and crews from getting seriously hurt or killed,” Mullen recalled Rushing saying. “That moment that may never happen because of us and what we do, it may prevent a tragedy for someone’s dad, brother or son.”
‘We Are Here To Help’
Rushing spent his life working in all aspects of the maritime industry, including as a deckhand, mate, pilot, captain and in various management positions shoreside and in the office. The company he created carried his life’s mission as its motto: “We are here to help.”
Rushing got his start in the industry as so many others do, through his father being a part of it. Capt. Woody Rushing was general manager for Missouri Barge Line in Cape Girardeau, Mo., and he had his son working for him when school got out for the summer. The younger Rushing stood his first watch as pilot in 1963, marking the formal start of his river career.
In 1964, Rushing worked as pilot and captain on the mv. Alamo as well as working on several other boats. These included the mv. Dorothy Estes, mv. Miss Susan, mv. John Henry and mv. E.E. Smith.
When the Missouri River opened for the 1965 season, Rushing served as captain on the mv. Alamo, riding the boat more than 300 days that year. In 1966, with the Alamo no longer being operated by Missouri Barge Line, Rushing worked as pilot or captain on the mv. Elizabeth Ann and mv. E.E. Smith.
In January 1967, Rushing was drafted into the Army and served two years, getting out in January 1969. He began working in the office at Missouri Barge Line and serving as pilot or captain on various company vessels as needed. He became full-time port captain in 1973 and operations manager in 1976.
In 1979, Rushing and his father started Rushing Marine Corporation, which owned and operated towboats. In 1991, Rushing was named executive vice president of MEMCO Barge Line. Then, in 1995, he started his consulting company, Rushing Marine Service LLC, working with his son Todd.
Rushing also was a founder and one of the early leaders of the Towing Vessel Inspection Bureau.
While his demeanor may have been quiet, Rushing was a positive force for change.
“Mike has helped positively influence and without fanfare lead the industry with the new safety and regulatory compliance approach and developing safety management systems that were not just boilerplate but work for the company,” Mullen said.
He added that Rushing trained a new generation of auditors and surveyors to be competent, professional and always to conduct themselves to the highest of ethical standards.
He also encouraged them to be open to new ideas.
“While one company may safely accomplish their mission, it is not the only way to move barges safely and profitably up and down the river,” Rushing told others. “Be open to all the good things that you see.”
Even outside the industry, Rushing was there to help, giving of his time and talents to work actively with his church, New McKendree United Methodist Church, where he eventually went on to become the district lay leader for the Southeast District of the Missouri Conference.
As an avid Scouter, Rushing earned the Silver Beaver Award in 2007, the highest award an adult can receive in what was then the Boy Scouts of America and is now called Scouts BSA. Among those who count Rushing as a mentor is retired industry leader Mark Knoy, who said of Rushing, “He believed in the Boy Scout Law and giving back to the community. Mike gave back in so many ways with his church and community, more than most could grasp. He never missed a challenge.”
Since 2000, Rushing was a part of the local Soap Box Derby race, hosted by the Rotary Club of Cape Girardeau, and he was elected to the All-American Soap Box Derby Hall of Fame in 2022.
Rushing also established the Rushing Family Trust in honor of his parents. This charitable trust, which has raised more than $500,000 to benefit non-profits, will hold its 25th annual “Captain Woody” Golf Tournament in October.
“Many people in the industry and the world are better for having worked for, with or been touched by Mike,” Mullen said. “The industry is better for what Mike has done. I know I am a better man professionally and personally for having been touched by Mike.”
Rushing will be posthumously honored with the Inland Marine Expo’s Lifetime Achievement Award in a special recognition June 1 during IMX2023 in Nashville, Tenn.
Caption for photo: Mike Rushing served in many capacities in the maritime industry but may be best remembered for being a mentor and community leader. (Photo courtesy of Rushing Marine)