Master Entrepreneurs

At their best, entrepreneurs embody a dynamic combination of business acumen and civic responsibility. They make a lasting impact on their industries, thanks to their capacity for self-direction, determination, creativity, leadership, and integrity. They also set an example in the business community by sharing the rewards of their professional success by “giving back” and by participating in community, charity, and civic leadership.

All of the members of The Society of Entrepreneurs share these qualities, but we also like to recognize the best of the best. We do this each April at our annual Awards Banquet, when we join Junior Achievement of Memphis in awarding the honor of Master Entrepreneur to the member of the Society of Entrepreneurs who best exemplifies the full range of characteristics necessary for membership in the Society. This person is, in other words, a perfect example of the capacities, accomplishments, and breadth that result from the fullest development of the entrepreneurial spirit. We hope that by drawing attention to these outstanding members of our entrepreneurial community, we will encourage others to learn from and follow their example. We invite you to view the accomplishments of and the words of wisdom from our Master Entrepreneurs.

Jack A. Belz

Belz Enterprises Chairman/CEO “Downtown Memphis sure has come a long way.” It’s a phrase that’s often heard these days, and it’s one for which in large part Memphis can thank the vision of Jack Belz. It goes back to 1948, to the wedding of Jack and Marilyn Belz in the beautiful Peabody Hotel. The hotel was, of course, special to Mr. Belz, and for that reason he and his family purchased it in 1975 rescuing it from dilapidation. He re-opened it in 1981, at the same time revealing his dream for revitalizing downtown Memphis. Mr. Belz has carried through in realizing this dream, contributing to revitalization projects all over Memphis in the past years. His efforts culminate in the development of the Peabody Place project. Planned to eventually cover an eight-block area, this project currently includes the Peabody Hotel, various residential, office and business buildings. Mr. Belz has also given much to Memphis in other ways. His civic involvements are quite numerous, as are his arts contributions. In 1999, he and his wife Marilyn opened up their exquisite Chinese art collection to the Memphis community, keeping it on permanent display at the Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art and has since expanded it with many other art categories. Description of Business: A multifaceted organization primarily involved with the development and operation of shopping centers, hotels, industrial parks, and corporate office parks. A special focus is on historic preservation, including such projects as The Peabody and Peabody Place in Memphis. In addition, Belz has previously been involved in multi-location river public port operation and various other businesses. Year Business... read more

Robert H. Buckman

BULAB HOLDINGS, INC. (PARENT COMPANY OF BUCKMAN LABORATORIES) RETIRED CHAIRMAN AND CEO Knowledge drives Robert H. “Bob” Buckman – whether it’s uncovering it, analyzing it, or sharing it. As Chairman and CEO Bulab Holdings, parent company of Buckman Laboratories, Mr. Buckman led the company that his parents created in 1945 in the quest to research, develop and market chemical products for use in the paper/pulp, industrial water treatment, and leather industries. Mr. Buckman says that the company’s success stems from, “the great knowledge base that resides in the heads of our associates.” Mr. Buckman’s honors include the Knowledge Management Leadership Award from Business Intelligence in London, the Arthur Anderson Best Practices Award for Knowledge Sharing, the Distinguished Service Medal from Rhodes College, Mid-South Exporters Roundtable Exporter of the Year, the Master of Free Enterprise Award from Junior Achievement of Memphis and the Mid-South, the Outstanding Chemical Engineer Award from Purdue University, and the Christian Brothers University School of Business Founders Award. Mr. Buckman also gives of his time to numerous corporate boards, professional organizations, and civic organizations nationwide. His affiliations include serving as Chairman of the Board of Applied Knowledge Group, on the APQC Board of Directors and Executive Committee, the Church Health Center Board of Directors, the Christian Brothers University Board of Trustees, and the International Editorial Board of the Journal of Knowledge Management. Mr. Buckman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University, and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Chicago. He holds honorary doctorates from Asbury Theological Seminary, Christian Brothers University, Furman University, North Carolina State University, and... read more

Hilliard Crews

Shelby Group International Chairman Hilliard Crews founded Memphis Glove Company in 1974 as an importer of industrial gloves. After several years of successful growth, he co-founded Crews Safety Glasses, River City Rainwear, and Shelby Specialty Gloves. All 4 companies became leaders in their product specialty and were recently merged into Shelby Group Intl., Inc. Crews remains Chairman and sole stockholder of Shelby Group Int’l. Inc. Shelby now operates factories in USA, Mexico, and China and has distribution centers in California and Pennsylvania. Shelby’s sales exceed $200 million; the company employs 250 in USA (200 Memphis Headquarters) and 1000 worldwide. Hilliard formed Crews Realty in 1990 and since that time has formed several other real estate partnerships for development of commercial and residential properties. Hilliard has also been active as a venture capital investor since 2000 and serves on several company boards including Cedar Document Technologies, Inc. (a document processing co.), and Triumph Bancshares, Inc. (a community bank). Hilliard graduated from Frayser High School and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from the University of Memphis. Hilliard serves on the Boards of University of Memphis and Teach for America. Description of Business: Manufacturers and distributors of safety products and apparel for industrial workers. Year Business Founded: 1974 Year Inducted: 2007 Thoughts on Entrepreneurship: “‘Entrepreneurship is the driving force behind a vibrant economy by improving efficiencies and by creating new products and services.” For More Information:... read more

Harold E. Crye

Crye-Leike, Inc. President The success story of Crye-Leike is one that is well known in the real-estate world. In 1977, Harold Crye and Dick Leike founded a company that they promised would make a difference – it would be results-oriented, professional, and would be dedicated to providing the utmost in service to the people it helped. Beginning from the ground up, the two men have built an entity that was once a small shop and is today one of the top ten real-estate companies in the nation, with more than 3,500 sales associates and 600 employees in 100 branch offices across the Southeast. In keeping with the entrepreneurial spirit, Crye-Leike has also expanded to become a full-service real-estate firm, offering everything from mortgage banking facilities to a home improvement division. Harold Crye also dedicates his time to numerous civic interests, including the Boy Scouts of America, Arkansas State University, Youth Villages, and the Realty Alliance. //     (link to video) Description of Business: Real estate sales/services, mortgage banking, insurance and management Year Business Founded: 1977 Year Inducted: 1994 Thoughts on Entrepreneurship: “‘Entrepreneurs are the driving force behind most of the employment and job creation in the world today. These risk-takers are obviously very valuable in today’s business world.” For More Information:... read more

William B. Dunavant

Dunavant Enterprises, Inc. Chairman/CEO Inducted into the Society of Entrepreneurs in 1992 and honored as Entrepreneur of the Year in 1997, William B. Dunavant is no stranger to the concept. Chairman and CEO of Dunavant Enterprises, a cotton merchandising operation that his father founded in 1929, Mr. Dunavant firmly believes that “entrepreneurship is the key to the survival of free enterprise and capitalism…changing ahead of the times, not with the times.” Taking over the business after the death of his father in 1961, Mr. Dunavant has grown Dunavant Enterprises from a small business on Front Street in Memphis to one of the largest cotton merchandisers in the world, handling more than 3 million bales annually in places as varied as Texas, Uzbekistan, Australia, Zambia, Hong Kong, and Switzerland, just to name a few. Mr. Dunavant is also quite giving of his personal time to civic interests such as Memphis Young Life, the Boy Scouts of America, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, and Rhodes College. Description of Business: One of the largest cotton merchandisers in the world, handling in excess of 4 million bales of U.S. and foreign cotton per year. The company has ginning and warehousing operations throughout the world, as well as a commodities trading company, cotton farming operations and a truck brokerage that serves as agent for approximately 5,000 trucks used to haul cotton. Non-cotton related subsidiaries include real estate, land development and computer software development. Year Business Founded: 1929 Year Inducted: 1992 Thoughts on Entrepreneurship: “‘Entrepreneurism is the key to the survival of free enterprise and capitalism, and we at Dunavant Enterprises believe in changing ahead of... read more

J.R. (Pitt) Hyde, III

Malone and Hyde CEO AutoZone Founder Joseph R. “Pitt” Hyde III is a nationally known entrepreneur and philanthropist whose leadership has transformed his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. After he graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1965 with a degree in economics, he joined Malone & Hyde, the wholesale food company founded by his grandfather in 1907 and he expanded its specialty retailing division into drug stores, sporting goods stores, supermarkets, and auto parts stores. Under his leadership, the company became the United States’ third largest wholesale food distributor with annual sales of more than $3 billion. He was the first president of Super D Drugs, and in 1968, he was elected president of Malone & Hyde, and in 1972, he was elected chairman.  For 10 years, he was the youngest CEO on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1979, Mr. Hyde established AutoZone Inc. as part of Malone & Hyde.  He guided its growth from one store in Fort Smith, Arkansas to a retail auto parts giant with more than 4,800 stores in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Mexico. He retired as CEO and chairman in 1997 after building AutoZone to become the largest retailer of auto parts and accessories in the U.S, and he remains on the AutoZone board of directors. Mr. Hyde is owner and president of Pittco Holdings Inc. and his broad portfolio of investments includes his position as general partner of Schaedle Worthington Hyde Properties, LP, an Atlanta-based real estate company that specializes in multifamily housing and limited service hotel development.  Mr. Hyde is chairman of GTx Inc, a publicly held biopharmaceutical company... read more

Patrick W. Lawler

Youth Villages Chief Executive Officer Patrick W. Lawler is chief executive officer of Youth Villages, one of the largest private providers of services to troubled children and their families in the country. Under his leadership, Youth Villages has established an array of specialized treatment programs operated by an effective team of more than 2,700 employees in 72 locations across 12 states and the District of Columbia. Youth Villages’ mission is to help children and families live successfully.   Since 1980, Mr. Lawler has served as CEO of Youth Villages, which has grown from serving 25 youth daily to 4,500, offering hope to more than 22,000 children and families each year. With an emphasis on the importance of family, program intensity, outcome measurement, community-based services and being accountable to families and funders, Youth Villages’ area of service has expanded across Tennessee, and to Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina, Florida, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Georgia, Indiana, New Hampshire, Oregon and the District of Columbia.   In 2006, U.S. News & World Report recognized Mr. Lawler as one of “America’s Best Leaders” in conjunction with the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.   In 2009, Harvard Business School completed a case study examining Youth Villages’ growth and impact, and exploring the organization’s innovative treatment approach, use of research in program development and targeted growth strategies. The case was written for inclusion in an HBS course called “Leading and Governing Highly Effective Nonprofit Organizations,” which teaches what it takes to be an organization that does innovative and highly effective work. Mr. Lawler is a frequent guest lecturer at... read more

R. Brad Martin

RBM Venture Co. Chairman Saks Incorporated Retired Chairman and CEO University of Memphis Interim President July 2013-May 2014 R. Brad Martin is a true believer in entrepreneurship, “risk taking is fundamental to the advancement of any enterprise.” And the risks he has taken have proven quite successful. Brad Martin led an investor group that acquired the four-store Proffitt’s Department Store chain in 1984. He became its Chief Executive Officer in 1989 and led the company as its revenues grew from approximately $70 million to $7 billion. The company acquired the premier department store chain in the United States–Saks Fifth Avenue–in 1998, and at that time, adopted the name, Saks Incorporated. Brad retired as Chairman and CEO of Saks Incorporated in 2007. Description of Business: Family Investment Office Year Business Founded: 1984 Year Inducted: 1997 Thoughts on Entrepreneurship: “‘Risk taking is fundamental to the advancement of any... read more

Allen B. Morgan, Jr.

Morgan Keegan, Inc. Chairman Emeritus Allen Morgan’s philosophy on entrepreneurship is simple yet profound. “Unless we promote [it], we will not have an exciting business atmosphere in our country.” Throughout his career, Allen has gone a long way in creating that exciting atmosphere he talks about. In 1969, at the age of 27, he founded Morgan Keegan and Company, a regional New York Stock Exchange member firm and a company name that few in Memphis and surrounding areas don’t know. The firm has grown from one office in Memphis to 300 offices in 18 states. Morgan Keegan was acquired in March 2001 and became a subsidiary of Regions Financial Corporation, one of the nation’s 10 largest bank holding companies. Mr. Morgan’s civic and cultural involvements are varied and have included the State of Tennessee Building Finance Committee, Methodist Hospitals, the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, Allen Morgan Health Center, Opera Memphis, and Dixon Gallery and Gardens. Description of Business: Investment firm with 300 offices in 18 states. Year Business Founded: 1969 Year Inducted: 1992 Thoughts on Entrepreneurship: “‘Successful entrepreneurs are those most responsible for creating the wealth and job growth in the United States economy. Unless we promote entrepreneurship, we will not have an exciting business atmosphere in our country.” For More Information:... read more

G. Scott Morris

The Church Health Center Chief Executive Officer As the first non-profit member of the Society of Entrepreneurs, Dr. Scott Morris is an example that the entrepreneurial spirit is not limited solely to capitalistic ventures. He is Founder and Executive Director of the Church Health Center, which opened in 1987 to provide primary health care to the low-income, uninsured working people of Memphis. The center, a health care ministry supported by faith and medical communities, averages over 50,000 patient visits a year. In January 2000, Church Health Center Wellness was opened as a part of the Church Health Center to provide a state-of-the-art wellness facility that combines the wisdom of disease prevention and the experience of health professionals with the love and encouragement of the faith community. Church Health Center has grown to become the largest faith-based, privately funded primary care clinic in the country. Dr. Scott Morris’ other involvements in the Memphis Community include the Urban Youth Initiative, the Memphis and Shelby County Medical Society Ethics Committee, Memphis Academy of Health Sciences (inner city charter school), and Healthy Shelby. Description of Business: A community-supported, faith-based health clinic for the working poor, caring for the physical and spiritual needs of people who work in minimum wage jobs who do not have health insurance. Funded solely through charitable donations. Year Business Founded: 1987 Year Inducted: 1999 Thoughts on Entrepreneurship: “‘In the not-for-profit world the ability to implement creative ideas is just as important as it is in the market place. We must focus on leadership and developing a quality product if we expect to solve the pressing social problems in our... read more

Michael S. Starnes

TCX, Inc. President  M.S. Carriers, Inc., Chairman/CEO Anyone who’s ever taken a road trip has most likely shared the road with an M.S. Carriers truck, often affectionately known as the “white stallion.” The ubiquity of these trucks on America’s highways is indicative of the growth that Mike Starnes has seen in his company since 1978 when it began out of his home with only two trucks. M.S. Carriers has grown to be a major player in the US trucking industry, running irregular routes and transporting a wide range of commodities throughout the country, as well as parts of Canada and Mexico. Today, M.S. Carriers operates as a subsidiary of Swift Transportation Co., based in Phoenix, Arizona. Mike Starnes is a Society of Entrepreneurs founding member, past president, and 1998 Master Entrepreneur honoree, which is a testament to the successes he has achieved throughout his career. He has embodied the spirit of entrepreneurship, and he has worked hard to foster an environment where others can do the same, serving as Chairman of the Board of the US Chamber of Commerce and heavily supporting the efforts of the University of Mississippi School of Business. His civic involvements include the Chickasaw Council Boy Scouts of America and Stanford St. Jude Classic Youth Programs, Inc. Description of Business: TCX was founded in 1981 to handle the transportation needs of shippers with traffic moving to the state of California. Since then TCX has expanded its market lanes to include the ten states in the west, northwest, and southwestern United States with additional service to Hawaii and Alaska. The states of North and South Carolina... read more

Henry M. Turley

Henry Turley Co. President Henry Turley is a founding member of the Society of Entrepreneurs, and he is also a very good friend to Downtown Memphis. More than twenty years ago, Mr. Turley made known his passion for Memphis and his promise to revitalize its downtown – and this promise is one that he has and continues to follow through on. Mr. Turley’s approach has been to preserve the beautiful historic structures of Downtown Memphis, while improving them with modern amenities. Among his first projects were the Shrine Building and the Cotton Exchange Building, both of which are highly sought after by apartment and office space seekers. His attentions moved from there to the South Bluffs of downtown, where he built an array of condos and stunning homes offering picturesque view of the Mississippi River. Memphis can also thank Henry Turley for the arrival of Harbor Town, a nationally celebrated community nestled on what was once a relatively obscure island in the river. The bottom line is that Downtown Memphis is once again the “cool” place to live, and it’s largely due to Henry Turley’s vision and attention to the places that the rest of Memphis almost forgot about. Description of Business: Real estate development focusing on community development and urban redevelopment Year Business Founded: 1977 Year Inducted: Founding member Thoughts on Entrepreneurship: “Akin to criminality.” For More Information:... read more

James L. Vining

Vining Sparks IBG, L.P. President and CEO “The entrepreneur must be someone who would choose to do business with himself.” Jim Vining places a great deal of emphasis on the qualities that make an entrepreneur successful: integrity, hard work, creativity, courage and fairness. He is President and CEO of Vining Sparks, IBG, a general securities firm that he founded in 1981. The company has grown from an initial staff of 17 to over 300 employees, with 13 offices in major U. S. cities and London. It is the largest broker of Small Business Administration loans in the U.S. Prior to Vining Sparks, Jim served as Executive Vice President for Union Planters National Bank, an Assistant Vice President for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, and Assistant Director for the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, DC. He has also been an instructor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and currently serves on the Faculty of the Midsouth School of Banking. Jim Vining’s civic involvements include United Way, Briarcrest Christian School, the Special Olympics, and serving as a Trustee and Board Member of the Oklahoma State University Foundation. Description of Business: Vining Sparks is an NASD Registered fixed income Broker/Dealer specializing in the distribution of financial services to institutional investors. Through its sixteen domestic and London offices, the firm’s 155 account representatives provide investment services to financial institutions, money managers, insurance companies, governments, and trust departments in all fifty states. Year Business Founded: 1981 Year Inducted: 1999 Thoughts on Entrepreneurship: “‘All successful entrepreneurs can identify certain other individuals that make their company viable and later successful. No one individual can build... read more

Jeffrey G. Webb

Founder & Chairman Varsity Brands Jeff Webb knows something of the entrepreneurial “spirit” – he’s made a career of it. In the mid 70’s the former University of Oklahoma yell leader founded a company to conduct training camps for high school and college cheerleaders. Varsity Spirit has grown through the years to become the world’s largest operator of specialty camps in this field with over 250,000 participants annually. After several years of steady growth in camp participation, Webb added an apparel and supply division called Varsity Fashions and soon began marketing custom designed uniforms throughout the country. In 1981, Varsity Spirit conducted its first nationally televised cheerleading competition on ESPN. Today the special event division produces 13 different televised competitions each year and organizes performance tours for school spirit groups to promote events such as Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the NFL Pro Bowl and the London Parade. Varsity is now the largest specialty camp operator in the world with over 270,000 attendees each summer. The Company’s apparel division now produces over 1,000,000 custom uniforms annually These three divisions make up Varsity Spirit Corporation, a company with annual revenues in excess of $270 million. Under Jeff’s direction, Varsity Spirit has accrued an enviable financial track record as well, with annual increases in revenues and earnings for over 30 consecutive years. Jeff Webb is a past present of the Society of Entrepreneurs (two terms), and over the years he has given of his time to many other civic organizations including Boys Club of Memphis, St. Jude’s Hospital, Church of the Holy Communion, Germantown Soccer Association, Youth Villages, Bridges, St. Peter Village,... read more

Spence L. Wilson

Kemmons Wilson Companies, LLC President As Chairman of Kemmons Wilson Companies, Spence Wilson knows entrepreneurship quite well, having spent a lifetime with one of the city’s most well known – his father. He understands and embodies the importance of blending creative energy and vision, initiative and innovation, and he has worked to develop Kemmons Wilson Companies into a leading investment, hospitality development and management company. Spence is generous with his time in numerous civic and cultural interests in Memphis. His commitments include the Thomas W. Briggs Foundation, Rhodes College, and Baptist Memorial Health Care System. Link to video: // Description of Business: Hotel development/management, real estate development/home building, financial services and insurance, resort time sharing, entrepreneurial and venture capital opportunity investments. Kemmons Wilson Companies, LLC is the managing entity of a group of companies engaged in the businesses mentioned above, oriented to capitalize on the opportunities in those businesses and to recognize and invest in other businesses where it can achieve significant competitive advantages and provide outstanding products and services. Year Business Founded: 1948 Year Inducted: 1996 Thoughts on Entrepreneurship: “‘Entrepreneurship is at its best when the entrepreneur supplies creative energy and vision to some activity or product and then …associates with him professionals who can help execute and implement his plans. The entrepreneur is the initiator and the innovator; the professional is the implementer. Both talents are crucial to success, and the synergy generated by the two is immensely powerful. But the entrepreneur starts it all. My dad, who was an entrepreneur in the classical sense, always reminded me that nothing happens until someone sells something. That’s very... read more

In Memoriam: Master Entrepreneurs

Carlos H. Cantu

The ServiceMaster Company President/CEO (retired) The ServiceMaster Company was recently named by Fortune as the country’s #1 most admired outsourcing company, and Carlos Cantu who served as the Senior Chairman, earned a great deal of credit for leading the company to where it is today. Carlos joined ServiceMaster in 1986, and he became CEO in 1994. Building upon the original franchise model, he worked to form an outstanding network of quality consumer service companies that operate under such well-known names as TruGreen-ChemLawn, Terminix, Merry Maids, American Home Shield and Rescue Rooter. Mr. Cantu’s business sense has proved invaluable to his peers, as he serves on a number of corporate boards, such as Exelon Corporation, First Tennessee National Corporation, and El Valor in Chicago. He was also quite active in the world of civic and charitable organizations. The honors he can count as his include the Horatio Alger Award in 1997, the Ellis Island Medal of Freedom in May 2000, and the Society of Entrepreneurs 2000 Entrepreneur of the Year. Description of Business: ServiceMaster is a portfolio of quality service companies operating under leading brands that currently include Terminix, TruGreen ChemLawn, TruGreen LandCare, American Residential Services, Rescue Rooter, American Mechanical Services, ServiceMaster Clean, American Home Shield, AmeriSpec, Merry Maids, Furniture Medic and The ServiceMaster Home Service Center. Year Business Founded: 1947 Year Inducted: 1992 Thoughts on Entrepreneurship: “The USA may aptly be described as the cradle of the free enterprise system. We are the most affluent country in the world today for two simple reasons: one, the men and women who have demonstrated the willingness to organize, operate and assume risk...

Jabie S. Hardin

Hardin’s-SYSCO Founder “Hard work and honesty.” That what he said it takes, and that’s what Jabie Hardin has exemplified throughout his career with Hardin’s-SYSCO, which he founded in 1936 as Hardin Distributing Company. Hardin’s-SYSCO, which in 1972 joined the wholesale food distribution conglomerate known as SYSCO Corp., was originally a two-person operation. Through Jabie Hardin’s leadership, Hardin’s-SYSCO is today a major part of the largest marketer and distributor of food service products in the United States, serving more than 250,000 customers. Jabie Hardin’s entrepreneurial philosophy also centered on “giving back,” which has long been an important part of his life. He and his wife, Helen, have demonstrated their philanthropic values in many areas of the community. At the University of Memphis, they endowed a chair for the study of Economics and Managerial Journalism, as well as the Jabie Sanford Hardin III Chair of Excellence in Combinatorics, in honor of their son. Jabie Hardin also established the Jabie S. Hardin scholarship fund of Columbia County, GA, where he grew up. The Hardin’s philanthropy extends also to the Memphis Zoo. In 1993, he and his wife gave the largest individual gift in the zoo’s history at that time, which made possible the Helen and Jabie Hardin Primate Canyon. Description of Business: Wholesale distributor of food and food-related products and medical supplies to restaurants, hotels, schools, hospitals, retirement homes and other food service operations Year Business Founded: 1936 Year Inducted: 1997 Thoughts on Entrepreneurship: “‘I am a strong believer in the philosophy that if you take something from the land/community, you should also give/put something back. Hard work and honesty. Be very selective...

Harry J. Phillips, Sr.

Browning-Ferris Industries, Inc. COO, CEO, and Chairman The late Harry Phillips was a true pioneer in the modern waste management business. Realizing the efficiencies that could be achieved from consolidating what had historically been a fragmented, mom-and-pop industry under a single corporate roof, Phillips and a few others transformed the waste-disposal business into what it is today: a legitimate multi-billion-dollar international industry. Starting with a single garbage truck in 1956, Phillips built his first company, Memphis-based Patterson Services, Inc., into a formidable regional player. The fledgling Browning-Ferris Industries, based in Houston, would eventually purchase Patterson Services, largely to gain access to Phillips’ operational expertise, which he used to build BFI into a global powerhouse. Phillips served as COO, CEO, and Chairman of BFI for most of its 30-year existence and helped negotiate its sale to a competitor in 1999 for $9 billion. At the time of its sale, BFI was the second-largest waste-management company in the world, with revenues in excess of $6 billion and operations around the globe. Although BFI was headquartered in Houston, Phillips remained in his hometown of Memphis, commuting to Houston once weekly throughout his 30-year history with the company. Phillips was extremely well respected in the Memphis business community. Phillips served on the board of the National Bank of Commerce (now part of Sun Trust) for more than 30 years and at various times also sat on the boards of Morgan-Keegan, RFS Hotel Investors, Buckeye Technologies, and Buckman Labs. Phillips was a quiet but enormously generous member of the community. He is listed as a co-founder of the Children’s Museum of Memphis and was...

S. Herbert Rhea

Rhea Financial Corporation President “Entrepreneurship is the foundation of the business world.” It can’t be stated more plainly than that, and few could demonstrate it better than S. Herbert Rhea, the 2001 recipient of the Master Entrepreneur Award given annually by the Society of Entrepreneurs to an outstanding member of the business community. Throughout his career, Mr. Rhea has contributed greatly to the financial community, working to “offer innovative ideas to enhance the financial well-being of clients.” He has served as a managing partner of The Rhea and Ivy CPA firm, President of SSM Corporation, President of the Tennessee Society of CPAs, and President of Rhea Financial Corporation. Mr. Rhea’s civic involvements include the Thomas W. Briggs Foundation, Second Presbyterian Church, Second Presbyterian Church Foundation, and the Dixon Gallery and Gardens. He was also a Life Trustee of Rhodes College, from whom he received the 1980 Distinguished Service Medal and an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree. Description of Business: Financial advisory services Year Business Founded: 1983 Year Inducted: 1992 Thoughts on Entrepreneurship: “Entrepreneurship is the foundation of the business world. Good entrepreneurs = good results; poor entrepreneurs = poor...

Willard R. Sparks

Sparks Companies, Inc. Founder/CEO “The single most important point in being a good entrepreneur is the willingness to give people responsibility and then hold them responsible for their decisions.” With this in mind, Willard R. Sparks has led the people of The Sparks Companies, Inc. in creating an organization that has proven to be a world leader in knowledge and understanding of the entire global agricultural system. With offices all over the world, Sparks Companies provides valuable research and consulting services to others in the agricultural and food industries – all of which Willard credits the talents and experience of his staff for making possible. Even though Willard Sparks’s professional talents were known worldwide, he has not forgotten about Memphis and dedicated a great deal of time to civic and cultural efforts at home. He has supported the Memphis Arts Council, The University of Memphis Board of Visitors and the Public Building Authority of Memphis and Shelby County. Additionally, he and his wife, Rita, announced that they had assumed 50% ownership of the Redbirds Management Company, Memphis’ own AAA baseball team, ensuring that the city will always be able to enjoy its new favorite pastime. Description of Business: Sparks Companies, Inc. is a world leader in comprehensive agriculture, food industry, agribusiness and commodity research, information and analysis and consulting. It provides unique insights and strategic and long-term planning for agribusinesses around the world. Headquartered in Memphis, the company has offices in Washington, D.C., Grand Rapids, MI, Canada and Argentina. Year Business Founded: 1977 Year Inducted: 1992 Thoughts on Entrepreneurship: “‘The single most important point in being an entrepreneur is...