Founder – 1927-2006
Entrepreneur J.B. Hunt, founder of J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. as well as several other successful business ventures, was an original member of The PINNACLE GROUP of NW Arkansas now known as HUNT VENTURES.
Johnnie Bryan Hunt was born in Cleburne County, Arkansas during the depression and like many men of his generation was forced to sacrifice his education in order to work for his family’s survival. He left school after the 7th grade to work in his uncle’s sawmill. In the years that followed he picked cotton, sold lumber, worked as an auctioneer, drove a truck, sold lawn sod, invented a rice hull press, designed and built a specialty poultry truck, started several businesses including a rice hull company, lost thousands of dollars yet made millions more.
Johnnie Bryan Hunt and the former Johnelle DeBusk brought a new definition to the term “life partners.” Married for 55 years, they were blessed with two children, Jane Hunt Meade and Bryan Hunt, as well as seven grandchildren. They also shared an extraordinarily successful business partnership for nearly as long as they were married.
Working together, J.B. and Johnelle founded J. B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. The company was founded in 1969, with just five trucks and seven refrigerated trailers. By the end of 2005, J.B. Hunt Transport had grown into the second largest publicly held truckload carrier in the U.S., with $3.1 billion in revenues, with nearly 12,000 trucks, 50,000 trailers and containers and over 16,000 employees. Always modest, the Hunts were always quick to give all the credit for their business success to their former and current employees.
In 1990, Mr. and Mrs. Hunt were chosen as the Arkansas Easter Seal Arkansans of the Year, the first couple to receive this prestigious award. Also in 1990, Mr. Hunt received the coveted “Hall of Fame Award” from the Arkansas Motor Carriers Association. The Arkansas Chapter of the March of Dimes honored both Mr. and Mrs. Hunt by choosing them as the recipients of the 1996 Citizens of the Year Award. In 1999 he was presented with the Salzberg Practitioner Award from Syracuse University in New York for his distinguished service and contributions in the field of transportation and logistics. Mr. and Mrs. Hunt were one of three recipients inducted into the University of Arkansas’ Sam M. Walton College of Business Hall of Fame in February 2001. They were also recipients of the Washington Regional Foundation Eagle Award in 2005.
Retired from the trucking business in 1995 but still remaining on the board until 2004, J.B. could more often than not be found making the rounds to one of his many new businesses. Foreseeing rapid growth, Mr. Hunt was instrumental in bringing together area business leaders forming what was originally “The PINNACLE GROUP” today is known as “HUNT VENTURES”. HUNT VENTURES co-owns with General Growth Properties of Chicago, Illinois, the 1 million square foot Pinnacle Hills Promenade lifestyle shopping center. HUNT VENTURES “Shoppes at Pinnacle Hills” is site for the Arkansas WORLD TRADE CENTER which is located within one of their 5 multi-story Class-A office buildings. The J.B. Hunt Tower, a 96,220 square foot Class A office building on Pinnacle Hills Parkway anchors this ambitious project and it was there that J.B. had his private offices.
In December 2006 after his passing, family, friends, employees and business associates alike remarked that it was always evident that for J.B. Hunt, the real joy in life and business was not so much in winning but in simply playing the game and making the deal. His optimism was consistent throughout his life and was contagious to all around him. He never altered his values or priorities and always exhibited a willingness to take on new business risks. Despite his personal fortune and his enormous corporate influence gained over the years, friends will tell you he was the same genuine caring person with everyone he met.
They called him “J.B.” or “Johnnie” or even “Mr. Hunt”. Wherever he went he could light up a room with his positive outlook on life and his trust in the Lord. In doing so he holds a special place in the memory of all who met him. The cowboy hat, the cowboy boots, the mile-wide grin, the hug and the handshake….that was J.B. Hunt.
Foreseeing rapid growth, Hunt was instrumental in bringing together area business leaders to participate in the assemblage and acquisition of land parcels in the western portion of Rogers near Interstate 540 and Pinnacle Hills Parkway. Today, much of the vacant land now commonly referred to as PINNACLE HILLS is being developed by HUNT VENTURES.