The Holmes Community College 2017 Alumnus of the Year recipient is Grenada native Albert "Al" Burton Hankins, Jr. (Class of '78). The award will be presented on Oct. 21 at this year's Homecoming Celebration held on the Goodman Campus.
Al began working full-time for his family's business, Hankins Lumber Co., Inc. in Grenada, right out of school. Following his father Burton's death in May of 2001, he took over the company as CEO and president. He credits his father for instilling a strong work ethic in his children from an early age. His father and uncle, Bewel Hankins, started off as a small business, Hankins Lumber Sales, in 1950. A few years later, they purchased a planer mill in Winona and in 1957, built the planer mill outside of Grenada in the small community of Elliot, where the company's headquarter is located today.
By the 1960s, the Hankins brothers added a sawmill and dry kilns to their business, but just a few years later, Bewel passed away. Burton took over sole leadership of the company following his brother's death and continued to run a client-oriented, successful business that offered high-quality products. The company became incorporated in 1972 as Hankins Lumber Co., Inc. and continued to grow, complete with construction of a new planer mill and major renovation of the sawmill in the late '90s.
Al is quick to contribute the business' continuing prosperity to the solid foundation his father and uncle established. He and his younger brother Lee, who serves as vice president of the company, have worked in the shops, boiler rooms and mills.
"Every facet of this mill, I have been in," Al said.
Hankins Lumber Co. now employs 155 workers and manufactures more than 150 million feet of lumber annually. The company also manages southern yellow pine tree farms scattered across the state, producing 120 million board feet per year.
In addition to his work for the family business, Al also serves as a commissioner for the Mississippi Forestry Commission; a position that entails a six-year term of leadership in forest protection, management, inventory and information distribution.
As hard work seems to run in the family, Al is not the only Hankins who has accomplished great things. His sister Clara is also a Holmes alum, and both of them believe in the impact the school has made on the lumber industry. To show their appreciation, the Hankins donated $75,000 to the Holmes Forestry Technology Program on the Grenada Campus in 2015.
Al recalls that his father served on the Holmes Board of Trustees years earlier and contributed quite a bit to the school.
"Many of our employees at Hankins Lumber, including myself, have attended some of the evening programs offered at the college," Al said. "Holmes helped me so much and I can see how it helps the younger people as well; especially our future foresters. We want to invest in our industry's future, and we appreciate how Holmes prepares their students for the workforce."
Hankins Lumber also hosts a few of Holmes' Forestry Technology classes each year, allowing students to tour the facilities and experience first-hand what they learn in the classroom.
Al and his wife, Jewel Mooney Hankins, have two children: Mandy McCormick, 39, who works at Hankins Lumber Co., and Amber Lee, 33, a registered nurse. The Hankins also have two grandchildren: Stephanie Davis, 18, and Ashlyn Lee, 13.