Local Obituaries

He put a top on Miami’s most recognized buildings. Roofer James Murton dies at 64

Sometimes only the birds or passing planes or people in higher high-rises can marvel at James Murton’s handiwork.

Roofers don’t always get attention, except when something bad happens after a storm. Murton also didn’t seek out public praise, his daughter Devin Murton said.

But when you’re talking about Miami’s skyline and its significant changes since the mid-1970s, you’re seeing some of Murton’s work and vision.

Murton, who died at 64 on Aug. 2 from liver cancer, is behind a major part of some of South Florida’s most familiar buildings, his daughter said.

Roofs on South Florida buildings

Among them:

Aventura, Sawgrass and Dolphin malls. AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami, home of the Miami Heat. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale.

Portions of Miami International Airport. Baptist Health’s Homestead Hospital. The Doral Country Club (now Trump National). The Four Seasons Miami. Icon Brickell.

The company he founded in 1976 with two of his brothers, Murton Roofing, did commercial properties. These included churches and schools.

Murton Roofing also did roof work at the ornate Epiphany Church, 8235 SW 57th Ave. This is where Murton, the company’s former president, will have his services at 4 pm. Aug. 14.

In 2000, Murton also was one of seven people who founded the national partnership, Tecta America, an Illinois-based commercial roofing company. Murton Roofing became a subsidiary of Tecta, and Murton continued to run the company until his retirement from the firm in 2005.

Hurricane response director

But his work continued. Murton became Tecta’s director of the company’s national hurricane response team and helped lead efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina tore through the region in 2005, his daughter said.

On Monday, Tecta America paid tribute to Murton on a Facebook post.

“We lost a great friend this weekend. Jim Murton was one of Tecta’s original founders and could light up a room,” the statement began, crediting him as a key individual in the formation and success of the company.

“He made a considerable impression everywhere he went and will leave an incredible legacy at Tecta,” the statement said.

“I spent only a few hours with Jim in my 12 years with Tecta but he had a unique ability to make even brief encounters memorable ones.,” posted a representative from partner company, FJA Christiansen Roofing Co.

Murton kept up with the rapid technological advancements in the field, especially after stringent building codes were enacted post-Hurricane Andrew in August 1992.

In 2000, Murton Roofing completed a 1.7 million square-foot roofing project at Sweetwater’s Dolphin Mall using a modified bitumen system — a weather resistant type of low slope roof — to produce a 35,000 square-foot barrel roof of standing seam metal panels, the National Real Estate Investor reported.

In 2007, Baptist Health turned to Murton Roofing to develop a roof that could withstand a Category 5 hurricane, Building Magazines reported. Murton Roofing employed a process called Polystick TU Plus, a self-adhering adhesive underlayment compound that offers protection against storms — like Hurricane Andrew, a Cat 5 that devastated the Homestead and South Miami-Dade area.

Murton’s background

Murton was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on Dec. 10, 1954.

He was the youngest of eight children — with two sisters and five brothers. They lived in a two-bedroom, one-bath house. His father, everyone called him Ed, was Murton’s inspiration.

His father was an orphan and a self-taught roofer who never went beyond the sixth-grade.

“My father was so amazed by my grandfather’s intelligence,” his daughter Devin said. “He could figure out anything and was innovative. He taught my dad about working hard and to keep your head down and stay focused.”

Murton, who lived in Pinecrest, also didn’t go to college. He began roofing right out of high school and moved to Miami in 1975 to begin his company, which he located in Medley.

Murton Roofing AD MH 82.jpg
A 1982 advertisement for Murton Roofing Company ran in the Miami Herald in 1982. The company’s co-founder James Murton, loved the ritual of reading the print edition of the paper, his daughter Devin said. Miami Herald File

“He loved to learn and this is the thing I loved most about him,” said his daughter, who founded her own roofing company, Long Lasting Roofing, also in Medley.

The road trip and hobbies

He took up golf, sailing, skiing, cooking and music, she said. Murton taught himself to play guitar, trumpet, steel drums and piano. He was “old-school,” his daughter said.

“He became an expert in everything he did,” Devin said, noting how her father read up on philosophy and religion after his cancer diagnosis, including a study of ancient Chinese beliefs and practices.

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James Murton took a cross country drive from one of his homes in Vail, Colorado, back to his home in Pinecrest, and shared selfies with his family all along the way. James Murton Courtesy Devin Murton

Traveling was another past time.

His daughter said when Murton learned he had liver cancer he chose not to go the traditional route of treatment. Instead, he flew out to one his his homes in Vail, Colorado, bought a Dodge Durango there, and drove it cross country by himself, back to his Pinecrest home.

“He stopped at all these stops along the way and said goodbye to his friends. He was so adventurous,” Devin said.

At each stop of the way — be it on land, snow or water — Murton took the time to take a selfie to send home to keep everyone posted on his adventures on the American roadways and beyond.

“He always used to say, and I feel like this is him in a nutshell, think outside of the parallelogram — that is outside of the box,” Devin said, with a laugh.

James Murton and his grandson Vincenzo hit the water on granddad’s boat. Vincenzo’s mom Devin, Murton’s daughter, took the photo and it’s one of her favorites, she said. Devin Murton Courtesy to the Miami Herald

In addition to his daughter, Murton’s survivors include his son Tyler, his grandson Vincenzo, his wife Wendy and six siblings.

Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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