James E. Satterfield was born in Russellville, Arkansas in 1942. His family moved to Sikeston, Missouri 6 months later, and as fate would have it, that’s where he and his father, Wade Satterfield, made their mark as Southeast Missouri towing legends.
As a teenager, James was hired part-time to dispatch calls at Dace Towing in Sikeston, where his father worked. James was paid 25 cents per call, and as a bonus, got to ride along with the driver on some of the calls. Then, in 1959, his dad struck out on his own, opening Wade’s Body Shop in Sikeston, which offered a 24 hour towing service – utilizing a 1 ½ ton Chevy Homemade Wrecker. This is where James’s training in mechanics, towing and body work truly began. As James puts it, “Trial and error is how I learned. I just started doing the work on my own and that was my training.” This hands on approach was supported by a simple and steadfast philosophy instilled in him by his father to “do things right, no short cuts.” After working fulltime for his father for 5 years, James opened up his own mechanic and body shop in 1965 in Grant City, MO, a nearby town on the outskirts of Sikeston. In addition to running his shop, he continued to drive a tow truck for his father. Then, in 1967, James moved his business to Sikeston, purchasing a larger building to house his own line of tow trucks, and “Satterfield Wrecker Service” was born. Despite the growing demands of his own business, James helped to keep his father’s shop going until Wade’s death in 1973.
James Satterfield’s career has spanned six decades. He has personally performed over 150,000 wrecker calls – with countless other calls logged by the dedicated drivers of Satterfield Wrecker Service. Yet, it’s his generosity and willingness to serve his community to help those in need that leaves the most lasting impression. Countless stories have been told of how James has provided jobs, clothing, healthcare and dental work for those less fortunate than himself. In addition, James has always provided Pro Bono Towing when circumstances called for it – for those who couldn’t afford it, and for the greater good of his community. For over 20 years, James has donated his towing service and roadside assistance to the Sikeston Jaycee Rodeo – a week-long event attended by over 10,000 people per night, which gives all profits back to the community by supporting numerous charities such as the American Red Cross, The United Way, and the YMCA. James didn’t just send out his drivers to do the work, he gave generously of his own time each and every night for this event.
Satterfield Wrecker Service has donated thousands of dollars through the years, sponsoring events that have helped raise money for The Shriner’s Hospital in St. Louis MO, St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis TN, and The National Guard Unit in Iraq. James has even donated vehicles and trailers to events and charities, including a trailer to haul items to Hurricane Katrina Victims in 2005.
Seeing the consequences of unsafe actions first hand, he was a strong advocator of passing the seat belt law in Missouri, and has gone out of his way to show young people the dangers of driving recklessly. James has experienced his share of unusual situations, from burying an entire truckload of cattle that had perished in a crash, to saving a horse that had fallen into an abandoned well. Like many towers, his career often tested his endurance, with late night long hauls and sleepless stretch’s in unbearable weather to make sure his customers were taken care of. In May of 2007, Satterfield sold his business to Greg Copeland, who proudly kept the Satterfield name and looks up to James like a father. Copeland still consults with him and seeks his approval in order to continue the Satterfield tradition.