Jimmy Faulkner, philanthropist, journalist, dies at 91

Friday, August 22, 2008 | 9:35 p.m. CDT

BAY MINETTE, Ala. —  James H. "Jimmy" Faulkner Sr., a leader in Alabama business, politics and philanthropy, died Friday in his hometown of Bay Minette. He was 91.

Leigh Brannan, spokeswoman for Faulkner University in Montgomery, said the school's namesake had a stroke earlier in the year and his health had been declining since then.

A graduate of the MU School of Journalism, he owned a chain of south Alabama newspapers for 42 years, was president of Faulkner Radio and founded Loyal American Life Insurance Co.

"Alabama has lost one of its most beloved citizens," said Elvin Stanton, who wrote a biography about Faulkner called "Faith and Works: The Politics, Business and Philanthropy of Alabama's Jimmy Faulkner."

Faulkner was mayor of Bay Minette from 1941-1943, a state senator from 1950-1954 and was in close Democratic primary races for governor in 1954 and 1958.

Faulkner believed that higher education should be accessible to all Alabamians and encouraged former Gov. George C. Wallace to develop the state's two-year college system. Because of his work, Faulkner State Community College in Bay Minette was named in his honor.

In 1958, Faulkner joined the board of directors of Alabama Christian College in Montgomery. Through a half century of work, he helped the school grow in size and acquire Jones Law School. The university was renamed in his honor in 1985.

"Faulkner University has lost a great friend and benefactor," university President Billy D. Hilyer said.

Faulkner was born on a farm in Lamar County and graduated from Freed-Hardeman College as well as MU. He moved to Bay Minette when he was 21 and bought a half-interest in the Baldwin Times. He later acquired the whole newspaper and others.

Stanton said thousands of Alabamians have benefited from Faulkner's donations to educational and religious organizations.

"He is the epitome of the saying that it is more blessed to give than to receive," he said.

A private funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Bay Minette Church of Christ. A public memorial is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Performing Arts Center at Faulkner State Community College.

Survivors include his wife, Karlene; sons, James Faulkner Jr. and Wade Faulkner; eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.


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