"I never heard of him, so I went to see him. I explained my situation. Would he like to make a proposal to build it? He said he certainly would. His number came in [much cheaper] and I almost fell out of my chair.
"And he said, 'Any savings below that number go to you.' I remember I got back a check from him for savings.
"That started our relationship that's lasted ... thirty-five, forty years. Some buildings he had built for us on a handshake. Not even a written contract. [He has] the highest ethical standards in the business world you could ask from anybody ... He's an American original."
"That is music to my ears," O'Neal says. He's not talking about Martin's praise--if he'd heard it, he'd blush--but the rumbling of concrete trucks lining First Street at the City Apartments construction site. Vibrators settling the pour add to the racket, and in another corner someone is welding. "Sixty years of it," says O'Neal. "That music has ruined my ears."