In the 1960’s, the Nello L. Teer Company moved to the other side of the world to Africa. A number of third-world African countries were struggling to rebuild their economies. In an effort to encourage economic growth, a new wave of construction and development swept the continent. In 1968, the company was contracted to build a 143-mile stretch of the Great North Road, a paved road that runs along the spine of the African continent from Cape Town to Cairo.
The company’s assigned section ran through Tanzania from Dar Es Salaam to the Zambian border. The Tanzanian government, the World Bank, and the United States government funded the 16 million dollar segment. The road was considered vital to the region’s economic development, providing a steady transport of copper from the land-locked country and fostering a strong export industry. The project’s administrators required that the labor force be drawn entirely from the local population.
Nello Jr. and Dillard inherited their father’s habit of visiting work sites to see a project’s progress firsthand. The two regularly visited international project sites. During a visit to Ethiopia, Nello Jr. found himself in the middle of a national revolt. Nello Jr. landed in the Ethiopian capital on the same day a coup d’etat ensued. Though the coup appeared to be a peaceful take-over at first, Nello Jr.’s hotel was soon caught in the middle of a crossfire between rebel forces and the national army. Nello Jr. escaped the riff unharmed, but caught the first flight out of Ethiopia when the airlines resumed service.