As a third-generation head of Wingfield Scale Co., Joseph Wingfield has helped grow the 85-year-old industrial and mining weighing business with new technologies and markets.
But for all of his success working at the Chattanooga firm for the past 23 years and heading the family-owned business since 2017, Wingfield said he probably gained the most attention 19 years ago for a momentary decision he made to jump off the Market Street bridge to get to his flooded houseboat on the north shore where he was living at the time.
With the Tennessee River swollen with more than 8 inches of rain in three days, Wingfield's floating home required a brief swim to access, so Wingfield put on his life jacket and jumped off the Market Street bridge to swim to the houseboat where he lived at the time with one of his brothers.
The jump quickly brought the local police and SWAT team for a rescue attempt and later charges against Winfield for reckless endangerment.
"I'm not quite as smart as I look," Wingfield quipped Tuesday while recalling the incident during the Chattanooga Area Leadership Prayer Breakfast.
A magistrate later dismissed the charges, primarily due to the help offered by an attorney friend, Philip Langford, who served as Wingfield's advocate and ultimately got the charges expunged from his record.
"I realized then that when you stand before the judge, you look a lot like your advocate," Wingfield said.
Through his life, Wingfield said he has relied upon his personal faith in Jesus Christ as his advocate to not only escape judgment but to achieve joy.
Wingfield quoted St. Augustine, who wrote in his book on confessions, "Our heart is restless until it rests in God."
Wingfield said he found his peace with God as a 15-year-old boy listening to the words of Jesus, who said in the Gospel of Matthew, "Come to me, all who are weary ... and I will give you rest."
Wingfield relayed his life story when he was called upon at the last minute Tuesday to give the keynote address to nearly 1,000 people gathered for the Chattanooga Area Leadership Prayer Breakfast. Todd Hopkins, a businessman and Christian author who was scheduled to be the keynote speaker tested positive for COVID-19 and was unable to make the trip to Chattanooga from Florida.
It was the first time in the 43-year history of the annual community prayer breakfast that a backup speaker had been called on as a last-minute substitute.
But Wingfield, who is a member of the board that oversees the Chattanooga Area Leadership Prayer Breakfast, is no stranger to the annual event. His grandfather, the late Ted DeMoss, helped organize the original Mayor's Prayer Breakfast in Chattanooga in 1978.
The annual event seeks to highlight the importance of prayer for Christians of all denominations in Chattanooga, according to the event chairman, T. W. Francescon Jr.
During the event at the Chattanooga Convention Center, local business and political leaders prayed for help in leading the community and, on a primary election day, also prayed for those going to the polls Tuesday to pick candidates for county offices.
"I would ask that you pray for each person whose name is on the ballot," Francescon said.
Hopkins, the founder and CEO of the 350-unit Office Pride Commercial Cleaning Services, has promised to come to Chattanooga's next Leadership Prayer Breakfast in May 2023.