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Donning the tux for an evening of Hall of Fame fun

On Monday, May 9th, Junior Achievement held its 16th annual Business Hall of Fame induction banquet here in Jackson.

Reluctantly, I donned a rented tux and off to the Marriott I went. I’m about as comfortable in a tux as a beagle wearing a mule collar. But, duty called and away I went.

As so frequently happens on such occasions, I dreaded going but was rewarded with a really high-class experience. Everybody was prettied up for the occasion and on our best behavior. Great food, wine and entertainment. Really, it doesn’t hurt to get formal every once in awhile.

Particularly when the event is so fraught with meaning. This year’s inductees join a remarkable group of 50 or so of Mississippi’s business icons. Listing some without listing all would be inexcusable, so I won’t. Just take my word for it, this group includes the real business heavyweights from all over our state.

This year’s inductees are certainly worthy additions to the list. One reason the number of additions is held to just four a year is so that each one can be properly recognized. Each of their stories was told in videos produced by the University of Southern Mississippi. These men have dedicated themselves to their families, their jobs and communities.

Each spoke of a deep commitment to personal goals that went much deeper than merely enjoying success in the business arena. Most expressed surprise that they had been selected for recognition. Real humbleness expressed by those of big accomplishments is so refreshing in these days of shameless self-promotion and 30-second sound bites.

Two inductees are bankers. Thomas Colbert, chairman of Community Bank, and Lewis Mallory, chairman of north Mississippi’s National Bank of Commerce, are still working for the same company they started with many years ago. These are extreme examples of staying with the girl you brought to the dance. During their remarks, both men spoke of the importance of training and developing their employees, acknowledging that employees are the most important assets in any business.

John McCullouch, president of BellSouth-Mississippi, began his career in the legal department of BellSouth. Known as a get-it-done guy, McCullouch acknowledged his competitive nature, which is essential to accomplishing all the things he has done over his career. He recognizes the importance of developing and empowering employees and from the testimonials included in McCullouch’s video, this is a vital component of his management success.

Unlike Colbert, Mallory and McCullouch, Dick Molpus has enjoyed several separate careers, each notable on its own. From working in the family lumber business in Philadelphia, Molpus moved into public service and served as Secretary of State before returning to the private sector. There he founded Molpus Woodlands, a huge timber investment company that developed no revenue or clients during its first year of operation. Clearly, Molpus is a good example of the value of persevering even when things are not going according to plan.

Colbert, Mallory, McCullouch and Molpus. What common traits do these guys share? Is there a message for the rest of us to learn and try to adopt in our lives? Yes, indeed there is. All spoke of the importance of strong family units, community involvement, personal integrity and commitment to their employees. Further, all embraced the increasing importance of education as the vehicle to move our state ever forward.

I currently serve as president of Junior Achievement’s board of directors and so this event is extra special for me. I was honored to be a part of the induction ceremony and share the evening with Mississippi’s business leaders. So many companies generously provided financial support for the evening that space doesn’t permit recognition of all.

However, we are deeply indebted to the The Clarion-Ledger, which again stepped up to the plate as presenting sponsor for the program.

Our gold sponsors were Trustmark, Horne LLP, the University of Mississippi and the UM Medical Center, Carlisle Corporation, St. Dominic Health Services and BancorpSouth. Thanks to all for making Junior Achievement and the Business Hall of Fame possible.

Once again, Southern Miss performed the yeoman’s task of producing videos telling the story of each laureate and videoing the Hall of Fame ceremony, a copy of which will be given to each of the new laureate inductees to commemorate their night of fame. I know that Dr. Shelby Thames, who attended the banquet with us, is justifiably proud of the product his folks produced.

Can’t close without a commercial for Junior Achievement. With the increasing pressure placed on our teachers to prepare kids for test after test after test where will they learn the basics of business and finance without hundreds of Junior Achievement classroom volunteers? Your volunteer time and financial support for JA helps prevent our high school graduates from entering the adult world without knowing how to balance a checkbook or understand that credit card charges have to be paid with real dollars.

Thought for the Moment

Make it a rule…never, if possible, to lie down at night without being able to say, “I have made one human being at least a little wiser, a little happier or a little better this day.” — Charles Kingsley (1819-1875), clergyman and writer

Joe D. Jones, CPA (retired), is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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