By Bill Dabney
The Hankins name is stamped on every piece of lumber that leaves the family’s Ripley, Mississippi, mill.
“It’s because we want people down the line to know who made it, and it represents that our family believes in the quality of the product we produce,” said David Hankins, a registered forester and the eldest of three brothers whose company manufactures, dries and planes Southern Yellow Pine lumber sold nationwide.
Soon, the Hankins name will appear on Gate 15 of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium at the University of Mississippi and will represent the family’s support for Ole Miss Athletics.
David and Rita Hankins, J.D. and Beverly Hankins, and Harold Wayne and Patsy Hankins recently made a $250,000 gift to the Forward Together campaign for Ole Miss Athletics, which bolsters facilities and programs for student-athletes. In a meeting on the Oxford campus, Interim Athletics Director Keith Carter expressed gratitude to the Hankins family. “Gifts like these are inspiring to others who may be considering whether the timing is right to give back to Ole Miss. Other potential donors will see the Hankins family leading the way toward increased support and hopefully feel that they want to contribute too,” Carter said.
“The Hankins family story is remarkable because of the longevity of support they’ve given Ole Miss as faithful donors for more than 25 consecutive years.”
In fact, the brothers are third-generation Rebel fans; their grandfather’s enthusiasm for Ole Miss continues to spread to his descendants. They and their wives rarely miss a game in the trifecta of most-popular sports — football, basketball and baseball. They sit together in the stands; they laugh and cheer together; and they’re best friends.
J.D. Hankins, a 1976 UM graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting with an emphasis in marketing, credits that relationship and the family’s faith — both nurtured by their mother — for the financial success that enables them to give back.
“It wasn’t a gravy train; it was a battle all the way,” he said, referring to the company’s start-up challenges and the housing market crash of 2008. “We’ve really been blessed through it all. God really took care of us. Especially looking back, you can see His footsteps here, there and everywhere, and we’ve just wondered why He was taking such good care of us.”
Now with 100 onsite employees, 700-plus indirect supporting workers and state-of-the-art manufacturing and distribution equipment, Hankins Inc. is in the top-tier of U.S. mills using the latest technology. The brothers grew up in Grenada, Mississippi, working in a lumber business owned by their father and uncle. After their father’s death, his ownership passed to them. In 1988, they decided to sell their interest and start a new company in Ripley by purchasing an existing sawmill. In 1993, the company embarked on a seven-year plan to modernize the entire production line. Now, the mill has a production capacity nine times that of its first year. “We’ve gone from 12-million board feet annually during the first year to 110-million board feet in 2018 and a total exceeding 2 billion board feet over the past 30 years,” said Harold Wayne Hankins, a 1980 Ole Miss graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. “Our special ability in the industry for product mixture is what set us apart competitively.”
“Throughout our business, we stress the core values of quality, integrity and safety, and we strive to provide a superior product, without any compromises to our beliefs or to the safety of our employees.”
The brothers are now semi-retired, but the business remains in the family: J.D.’s son Trey Hankins, a 2003 graduate, is chief financial officer and David’s son Blake Hankins, a 2007 graduate, is chief procurement officer. The Hankins’ gift is part of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation’s drive to honor donors with naming opportunities for each entrance gate at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. “The Gate Naming Initiative is the first of its kind and will play an integral role in completing the $200 million Forward Together campaign,” Carter explained. “With $180.9 million raised toward a multitude of capital projects, the final phase of the campaign saw the opening of the William F. Galtney Indoor Tennis Center and completed renovations to Oxford-University Stadium.”
Naming opportunities remain available for the grand gates at the north, east and west entrances as well as a limited number of individual gates. In 2017, the stadium’s south entrance was named for Diane and J.L. Holloway of Ridgeland, Mississippi; Gate 4 was named for Jane and Doug Simmons of Hollandale, Mississippi; Gate 2 was named the Braddock-Beagle Gate in memory of Larry “Big L” Braddock of Laurel, Mississippi; and Gate 14 will serve as a lasting tribute to alumnus Roger Friou and his wife, Susie, of Ridgeland.
For more information about the Gate Naming Initiative, contact the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation at 662-915-7782 or visit https://givetoathletics.com/gates.