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The University of Alabama

Alabama Business Hall of Fame to Induct Four New Members

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Four of the state’s leading business and civic leaders will be inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame Thursday, Oct.15 at the Bryant Conference Center on The University of Alabama campus.

This year marks the 36th anniversary of the Hall of Fame, sponsored by the board of visitors of UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration. The four inductees exemplify hard work and determination as well as a commitment to excellence and the entrepreneurial spirit.

More than 120 prominent business leaders have been inducted into the business hall of fame, and their likenesses are embossed on plaques that line the walls of the Hall of Fame Room in Bidgood Hall on the University campus. (http://v2.cba.ua.edu/giving/hall_of_fame/)

Hall of Fame inductees for 2009 are:

  • Mike Jenkins IV, chairman and chief executive officer, Jenkins Brick Co.
  • The late Thomas E. Jernigan, chairman and chief executive officer, Marathon Corp.
  • Carl E. Jones Jr., former president and chief executive officer, Regions Financial Corp.
  • John Russell Thomas, chairman of the board, Aliant Financial Corp.

Will Brooke, chairman of the Culverhouse College of Commerce Board of Visitors, said this year’s inductees are representative of the diversity and entrepreneurial spirit that mark the state’s business community.

“These are unique individuals,” Brooke said, “and each displayed confidence in their ability to succeed and each had a vision and a strong sense of civic responsibility. The state and the nation are better because of their contributions.”

As head of Jenkins Brick Co., Mike Jenkins helped revolutionize the brick-making process. His company was one of the industry’s first to use landfill gas rather than natural gas for firing the kilns. Jenkins Brick is the largest user of earth-friendly methane gas in the brick industry, and it also uses storm water from the roofs of its manufacturing plants during brick production.

In 2006, Jenkins Brick built its St. Clair County facility, placing it near the local landfill so the kilns could be fueled with the methane gas produced by the waste.

The company’s current use of landfill methane reduces greenhouse gases each year in an amount equal to planting 14,700 acres of forest, removing the emission of 13,700 vehicles or preventing the use of 166,600 barrels of oil.

The United States EPA awarded Jenkins Brick with the 2006 Project of the Year, honoring the company’s earth-friendly plant in St. Clair County. Jenkins, like his company, has received a number of awards for business leadership and community service, and been involved in numerous civic and service organizations, generously giving his time and leadership to the community.

Jenkins has served as chairman of the Rebel Chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization and director of the Society of International Business Fellows. He is a former chairman of the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce, a former director and vice chairman of the Alabama Association of Business and Industry and a director of the Business Council of Alabama.

The late Thomas E. Jernigan was born in Atmore in 1923. After graduating from high school, he joined the United States Air Force and served two years during World War II. When he returned from military service, he attended The University of Alabama.

After completing his studies, Jernigan settled in Mountain Brook.

He began his entrepreneurial endeavors by developing a line of children’s playground equipment. In 1965, he founded Plantation Pattern Co., a manufacturer of wrought iron casual furniture, which still is operating today.

Four years later, he founded United Chair Co., an office furniture manufacturer. United Chair still exists today.

In 1970  Jernigan founded Marathon Realty Co. to build and develop commercial properties.

In 1971, he founded Marathon Equipment Co., a manufacturer of commercial and industrial trash compaction equipment. During the time he was at the helm of Marathon Equipment, the company was recognized as the largest commercial trash compaction manufacturer in the world and a key supplier to some of the largest waste removal companies.

In 1972,  Jernigan became CEO of Delwood Furniture, a corporation that consisted of six individual manufacturing companies specializing in home and office furniture.

Jernigan put another idea into action in 1973 and developed the concept of neighborhood convenience stores in Alabama and built a chain of 80 Quick Marts throughout the state.

He started yet another successful business venture in 1976 when he founded Winston Furniture Co. in Haleyville. Winston still is a leading manufacturer of aluminum outdoor casual furniture.

In addition to his other business ventures, Jernigan was active in the banking industry. He was an original director of the Central Bank and Trust Co., which eventually became Compass Bank. In 1992, Jernigan founded Marathon Apparel.

Through the Thomas E. Jernigan Foundation, a program was started in Birmingham to help churches provide holiday relief for people in need. Jernigan donated generously to many community and educational organizations. He died in January 2008 and is survived by his wife of 22 years, Donna Conyers Jernigan, and his four children.

He remained chairman and chief executive of Marathon Corp. until his death.

Carl E. Jones Jr., former president and CEO of Regions Financial Corp., graduated from The University of Alabama in 1962 and became a management trainee at Merchants National Bank of Mobile.

Jones began his career selling data processing services to smaller community banks and later became a commercial lender. In 1978, just 14 years after his arrival at Merchants National, he was promoted to president of the Mobile bank, and, by 1981, he was president, chairman and chief executive officer.

Later in the same year, Regions Financial Corp., then known as First Alabama Bancshares, acquired Merchants National, and in 1984 Jones became a regional president, overseeing the banks in Louisiana and south Alabama.

In 1997, he advanced to president and chief operating officer for Regions nationally, and the following year, he assumed the role of chief executive officer.  In 2000, he became chairman of Regions Financial Corp. At that time, Regions held just more than $23 billion in assets and consisted of 435 offices in eight states.

Under Jones’ leadership, the bank nearly quadrupled in size through acquisitions and internal growth and became one of the top 15 bank-holding companies in the U.S.

As a UA alumnus, he has served on the board of visitors for the College of Commerce and Business Administration for nearly 30 years. In addition to his involvement with the University, Jones has given his time to numerous organizations throughout the years. He has served on several boards of directors, including the Federal Reserve Bank of New Orleans, the Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Co., the Alabama Chamber of Commerce and the Alabama Bankers Educational Foundation.

John Russell Thomas, chairman of Aliant Financial Corp., began preparing for a future career in the Russell family’s textile industry on his 16th birthday, working summers at Russell Corp. After graduating from Baylor School in Chattanooga in 1956, he attended Georgia Tech. Four years later, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in textile engineering. He then spent 1961 and 1962 in graduate studies at The University of Alabama business school.

After two years of duty as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Thomas returned home as vice president in charge of systems and engineering at Russell Corp., the job he had planned for and anticipated most of his life.

In 1966, Thomas lost his father, Russell Thomas, chief executive officer of First National Bank of Alexander City. The bank was founded in 1900 by the same uncle who created Russell Corp., and the Thomas family held controlling interest in the financial institution. After his father’s death and issues with management succession, Thomas was forced to choose between selling the bank or running it himself. He chose the latter.

Faced with a midlife career switch, Thomas signed up for every available Alabama Bankers Association seminar and as many American Bankers Association seminars as he could. When he took the helm at First National Bank in 1973, the bank had $33 million in assets and two electric calculators. In 2008, the multibank-holding company, now Aliant Financial Corp., reported more than $972 million in assets.

The Birmingham Business Journal named Aliant among the best places to work in 2008.

Over the years, he has worked actively to promote better banking and business throughout Alabama, serving on boards of directors for multiple corporations and groups across the state.

In 1986, he was chosen as president of the Alabama Bankers Association.

In Alexander City, he served on the board of Russell Medical Center and Russell Lands, and he served 40 years on the board of Russell Corp. He was also chairman of the Alexander City Board of Education and president of the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce.

Throughout the years, he has given generously to philanthropic and political causes.

He served on the President’s Council of The University of Alabama at Birmingham, and he was a member of the Board of Trustees of The University of Alabama system for 13 years.

He serves on The University of Alabama President’s Cabinet and the board of visitors of the Culverhouse College of Commerce, as well as the Athletic Foundation, and he is chairman of the 1831 Foundation.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Note to editors: For more complete biographical information or sketches of inductees, phone Bill Gerdes, 205/348-8318.