Johnelle DeBusk Hunt was born in Heber Springs, Arkansas. She met Johnnie B. Hunt when she was a junior in high school and four years later they were married. She attended the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Johnelle and J. B. were married 55 years and blessed with two children as well as seven grandchildren.
In 1962, the J. B. Hunt Company, a rice hull packaging company, opened its doors in Stuttgart, Arkansas. Johnelle worked part-time to help her husband get started in the business. As the company grew, she found herself working more and more – helping with correspondence, financial statements and doing bookkeeping. Before long she was working full time. In 1969 the couple co-founded J.B. Hunt Transport with five trucks and seven trailers. Its success is a tribute to the Hunt’s entrepreneurial spirit and hard work. J.B. Hunt Transport is one of the largest transportation logistics providers encompassing Intermodal, Dedicated, Truckload, LTL, Final Mile, Refrigerated, Flatbed and Expedited services. Among her jobs were the position of credit manager and Corporate Secretary. At her retirement from the Board of Directors of the company in 2008, Johnelle was recognized as being an active and important partner contributing to the company’s development and success.
Mrs. Hunt currently holds a seat on The Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute Advisory Board. She is the founding Chairman of the United Way Alexis de Tocqueville Society for Washington County as well as a founding Executive Board Member of the Ozark Affiliate of Susan G. Komen. In May of 2000, she accepted the position of Campaign Treasurer for the University of Arkansas’ Leadership Team entitled Campaign for the 21st Century, a major fundraising drive that raised over one billion dollars. Following the Campaign for the 21st Century, an Advisory Board was formed of which Mrs. Hunt served on the Executive Committee. She was Co-Chair of the University’s Campaign Arkansas Steering Committee in 2013 and continues to serve on the Campaign. She has served on the Board of Directors for The Beau Foundation benefiting prenatal care in Northwest Arkansas since 2003. She previously served on the UAMS Foundation Board and Washington Regional Medical Foundation Board.
In 1990, she and Mr. Hunt were chosen as the Arkansas Easter Seal Arkansans of the Year, the first couple to receive this award. In 1992 she was one of four women to receive the Worthen Professional Women of Distinction Award and has been included in “The Top 100 Women” list for Arkansas from 1994-1998. In 1996 the March of Dimes honored the Hunts as Citizens of the Year. In 2001 she and Mr. Hunt were inducted into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame. Mrs. Hunt received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by the University of Arkansas in 2009. In 2012 the legacy of J.B. and Johnelle Hunt was honored by Economics Arkansas with the Excellence in Free Enterprise Award. Mrs. Hunt was honored by the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce where she also received the 2013 Dick Trammel Good Neighbor Award. In 2015, she was recognized as a University of Arkansas Chancellor’s Medal recipient and was inducted into the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame. Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas chose Mrs. Hunt as the 2016 Woman of Inspiration.
Since the passing of her husband in December of 2006, Mrs. Hunt has taken a very active role in projects developed and managed by her company, Hunt Ventures. The group is primarily responsible for the conception and development of the more than 700-acre project in western Rogers known as Pinnacle Hills. The development features over 1.4 million square feet of retail/restaurants and nearly 1.2 million square feet of Class A office space including the recently completed 10 story Hunt Tower. Johnelle is also actively involved with many other ongoing projects and companies started by Mr. Hunt including Northwest Arkansas Quarries, Haskell (Oklahoma) Sand and Gravel, Central Mortar and Grout (Muskogee, Oklahoma) and BioBased Technologies. Other developments she is associated with include Village on the Creeks and Pinnacle Hills Promenade. Mrs. Hunt is a principal in Sage Partners Real Estate Solutions with offices across Arkansas. She has also developed and constructed Northwest Arkansas’ newest cemetery, Pinnacle Memorial Gardens, along with the accompanying 3000 square foot Hunt Chapel.