Blackwell Plastics Inc. owner L.D. Blackwell — whose plastics career began before World War II — died on Aug. 9 at age 89.
Houston-based Blackwell Plastics injection molds and extrudes products for a variety of markets. L.D. Blackwell and his father, L.A. Blackwell, founded the firm in 1939 to make slip cork inserts, a product that allowed fishermen to cast into deep water. The inserts originally were made of wood.
According to a company history on the firm's web site, “In 1938, Mr. Blackwell and his son L.D. sat on their front porch admiring a relatively new gadget — the plastic toothbrush. Mr. Blackwell said ‘L.D., this material is what we should be making our slip cork inserts from.'”
After some trial and error, the Blackwells created their own injection molding equipment, and by 1939 were making 300-500 inserts per day, using early plastics such as Plastacele from DuPont and cellulose acetate butyrate from Eastman Chemical.
L.D. Blackwell served in the U.S. Army during World War II, then returned to the family business. His father died in 1945, leaving the plastics business to his wife Irene, L.D.'s mother. L.D.'s brother Bob also worked for the firm until 1947 and then returned in 1957.
During that decade, L.D. and his mother worked to grow the business.
“One of the biggest problems,” L.D. recalled in the company history, “was having to shut off the machine I was operating, get cleaned up, put on my suit and make sales calls.”
Blackwell Plastics would grow and would become involved in numerous milestones, according to the Houston Business Journal, including making the Gulf Freeway's first lane markers, NASA equipment for astronauts, heart pumps for heart surgeons and coolers, pipes, valves and decoy grenades used by the U.S. military in Desert Storm.