Singing custodian celebrates 50 years at Springfield City Hall - WKRN News 2

Singing custodian celebrates 50 years at Springfield City Hall


It's far from a glamorous job. Custodian James Cantrell does all the little things needed to keep Springfield's City Hall ticking.

"Whether it's cleaning up, putting in light bulbs, whatever you have to do, you do it," Cantrell told Nashville's News 2.

He's been getting things done for more than 50 years.

"It's been a long time, but it doesn't seem that long to me," mused Cantrell.

He started at City Hall back in 1962 after a chipped vertebra forced him to leave his previous job as a truck driver.

In his half-century with the city, Cantrell has seen the world change. When he was hired, Jim Crow was still the law of the land.

"I was the only black person here in the building working at that time," explained Cantrell. "This was the only job they'd let me have, cleaning this building. That changed in the 1970s."

Through so many changes, one thing never wavered; Cantrell's love of music.

"That keeps me company," Cantrell said with a laugh. "Singing at night when I'm here."

His raspy voice was a constant companion on his late night shifts after everyone else had called it a day.

Cantrell's love of music blossomed singing in gospel groups around the area. His voice is yet another change to come with the passing of time.

"I had some problems with my vocal chords," Cantrell said, adding, "That's why I sound [so raspy]. It wasn't like that then.  I sounded a lot better back then."

Cantrell's attitude hits all the right notes with coworkers.

"James always has a song in his heart. He's always happy, tapping his foot and singing," said Judy Harp, a city hall cashier.

"He's just the all around guy," added Tereasa Taylor, also a cashier. "He's just happy go lucky. He's always there for us."

Cantrell is the city of Springfield's longest-tenured employee. His work ethic and cheerful demeanor also make him a hit with his supervisor, Assistant City Manager Gina Holt.

"He's always out here, he's never out, he's always in a good mood," she said.  "If only they all could be that good."

Cantrell credits his longevity on the job to a youthful mindset.

"If you think you're getting old, you probably will," he laughed.

Cantrell told Nashville's News 2 he's not ready to sing his swan song just yet.

"Right now, I feel fine, and I feel like I may do it another 50 years," said Cantrell with a hearty laugh.

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