Four new entrepreneurs will be recognized for their contributions to business and community when they are inducted April 30th into the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame.
This year’s laureates are Mississippi native James L. Barksdale of The Barksdale Group in Menlo Park, Calif., (formerly of Netscape, AT&T and FedEx); J. Thomas “Tommy” Munro of Munro Petroleum in Biloxi; Gail Jones Pittman of Gail Pittman Inc. in Ridgeland; and William G. Yates Jr. of W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company in Philadelphia.
Barksdale, Munro, Pittman and Yates join 43 other members in the Hall of Fame, now in its 12th year. Members are selected for contributions to business, to their communities and to education, said Roy Ward, chairman of this year’s event and chairman of Horne CPA Group.
“This is an illustrious group,” he said.
Jim Barksdale is managing partner of The Barksdale Group, a full-service investment advisory firm he founded in 1999. From 1995 to 1999, Barksdale served as president and CEO of Internet company Netscape Communications Corp. Under Barksdale’s direction, Netscape grew from 100 employees to 3,000 with revenue of almost $600 million. Prior to Netscape, Barksdale was CEO of AT&T Wireless Services and executive vice president and COO of Federal Express.
Barksdale and his wife, Sally, have shared their success with their home state by donating millions to education. The Barksdales founded the McDonnell-Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi (UM) and donate $2 million annually for scholarships for African-American students at UM’s medical school. Last year, they donated $100 million to create the Barksdale Reading Institute. The statewide institute was started to help Mississippi children learn to read and to help teachers learn better ways to teach reading.
Tommy Munro is president of Munro Petroleum and Terminal Corp., Ship Services Corp. and secretary/treasurer of Munro Supply Company. Munro joined his family’s Biloxi company in 1953 when the business had five employees and sold approximately two million gallons of fuel a year to 12 service stations. Today Munro Petroleum has over 200 employees, operates 21 convenience stores and services numerous dealers. In 1969, the company took a major hit from Hurricane Camille but quickly rebuilt new service stations.
Munro has served his country and state as a brigadier general (retired) in the Mississippi Army National Guard and as a state senator from 1968 to 1972. He has served on the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning and has led the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce, Biloxi Boy Scouts of America, Harrison County Development Commission and numerous other organizations.
Gail Pittman is founder and president of Gail Pittman Inc., the handpainted ceramics and home interiors business she started over two decades ago. Pittman first sold her ceramics at the Canton Flea Market where demand quickly grew. In 1987, she moved her business from her kitchen table to an 1,800-square-foot building and then to a 7,800-square-foot building, which she also outgrew. Her 135-employee business now occupies a 55,000-square-foot facility in Ridgeland. Her unique product and business savvy earned the company a spot as one of Inc. magazine’s top 500 fastest-growing companies in American in 1992.
Pittman has donated her products to benefit the Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity. This year, she created a design for ceramic Easter eggs sold to build a Habitat house.
She presently serves or has served on the boards of AmSouth Bank, Metro Chamber of Commerce, American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Mississippi Children’s Home and many others.
Bill Yates is president of The Yates Companies Inc. and W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company in Philadelphia. Yates founded the company in 1963 with his father while attending the University of Mississippi. After serving with the U.S. Army and receiving the Commendation Medal, he joined the business in 1967. Since then, the company has grown from 15 employees and $200,000 in volume to approximately 3,000 employees and $600 million in volume. Yates has made several acquisitions and expansions over the years to achieve his goal of creating a company that can handle all facets of construction.
His success has earned him “Mississippi Construction Man of the Year” in 1991 and a place in the UM Alumni Hall of Fame, among other honors. Yates’ contributions to his community and state cover a wide range of organizations, from serving as a director for Trustmark National Bank, Mississippi Economic Council, Thalia Mara Foundation and the Choctaw Area Council of Boy Scouts of America.
The Mississippi Business Hall of Fame was founded in 1989 by Junior Achievement of Mississippi and co-sponsor The Clarion-Ledger. Tom Tabereaux, president of Junior Achievement, said laureates are selected not just on business achievement, but their accomplishments over an extended period of time.
Hall of Famers are nominated by their peers and then chosen by a 17-member selection committee made up of educators and business people from around the state. With some 150 nominees to choose from, narrowing down this year’s Mississippi Business Hall of Famers to just four inductees was not an easy decision, said Harry Walker, a selection committee member and president of Trustmark National Bank.
“They all have had outstanding accomplishments not only in business, but in the community and civic arenas. And they’ve all given a portion of their success back to their communities because they want to see them succeed as well.”
This year’s laureates will be inducted at a dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Jackson. Videos of each laureate, shot on location prior to the event by the University of Southern Mississippi, will be shown during the program. A reception honoring past and present inductees starts at 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. and the induction at 8 p.m. For more information, call Junior Achievement at (601) 948-3997.
Contact MBJ Staff Writer Kelly Russell Ingebretsen at (601) 364-1027.