Melvin L. Joseph Sr. was born on August 4, 1921, in Georgetown, DE, the son of the late Harry and Ella Mae Joseph. In 1940, Joseph, with only a sixth grade education, sheer determination and hard work, took one dump truck and a shovel and turned it into a multi-faceted business empire. He was a well-respected contractor and developer with many other interests including auto racing, horse racing, treasure hunting and aviation.
Joseph was the founder, owner and operator of Melvin L. Joseph Construction Co., Inc. since 1940 and M.L. Joseph Sand and Gravel founded in 1990. His first big contract was in 1949 and that same year he became a partner in the Ford Dealership in Georgetown. From all the good luck that year he declared the number 49 his lucky number. Melvin's license number, license plates, airplanes, horses and race cars have all contained the number 49. Through his friendship, loyalty and unselfish dedication to the Delaware State Police and Camp Barnes, Joseph was made an honory staff officer in 1978 and presented with an honorary badge - #49. His love of horses let to the creation of his state-of-the-art horse training facility in Georgetown, DE where his award winning horses Mr. Forty Nine, Tyler's Point and Crossfire were trained. In fact, there were some folks who even called Melvin "Forty Nine".
Joseph was a pioneer in the development of NASCAR. His passion for racing began on the back roads of Sussex County in his suped-up Mercury's which led to the beaches of Daytona, FL. In 1955, his cars won both the NASCAR Sportsman and Modified Events on the sands of Daytona Beach, FL. In 1959, Joseph's car, driven by Banjo Matthews, won the race by an amazing 3 miles in the first NASCAR Modified race on the newly built Daytona International Speedway. Another racing highlight includes owning one of the cars that Bobby Allison drove to many victories. His racing involvement led to lifelong friendships with racing legends such as Bobby Allison, Ralph Moody, Bobby Unser, AJ Foyt, Junior Johnson, Junie Donlavey and numerous others.
Melvin designed and built Dover Downs International Speedway, now Dover International Speedway (motorsports) and Dover Downs Raceway (harness racing), and gave drivers the command to start their engines at every NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Race in Dover since 1969. Joseph was originally appointed to the board of what was then Dover Downs, Inc. in the same year. At the time of his death, Joseph served on the Board of Directors for Dover Motorsports, Inc. as the Vice President and Director of Auto Racing. He also served on the Board of Directors for Dover Downs Gaming and Entertainment, Inc. Joseph served as a consultant for the construction of Nashville Superspeedway, a Dover Motorsports, Inc. track. Additionally, he oversaw the 1994 repaving project at Dover International Speedway that transformed the asphalt into the current concrete surface. His ideas, innovations, and dedication greatly contributed to the success of Dover Motorsports, Inc. His many accomplishments in the sport of auto racing led to his induction into the Delaware Sports Museum Hall of Fame in 2002.
Joseph's sense of adventure led him to off-shore salvage work. In the mid-1970s Joseph teamed with treasure hunter, Mel Fisher. Joseph financed the expedition that led to the discovery of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, a Spanish galleon that sank in 1622 off the Florida Keys. The search yielded one of the greatest discoveries of sunken Spanish treasures in the world to date. A portion of Joseph's share is on display at the Treasures of the Sea Exhibit at the Delaware Technical and Community College in Georgetown.