According to the latest Forbes billionaire list, there are 2,688 billionaires in the world. A few of these live in Arkansas- with the familiar names of Jim and Ron Walton at the top of the list.
But as a business and finance writer, I like to review this list and find interesting and inspiring stories that I can share with readers.
And there are few stories as inspiring as the person who rose to become the richest female in Arkansas.
Let's look at her story.
The richest woman in Arkansas
The richest woman in Arkansas is Johnelle Hunt. Hunt has a net worth of $4.7 billion. This makes her the 601st richest person in the world, something that would have been unimaginable to her parents when Johnelle was born in Heber Springs, Arkansas, in 1932.
Johnelle married Johnnie Bryan Hunt at a young age, and the Hunts were both hard workers. In fact, Johnnie Hunt grew up picking cotton with Johnny Cash, and the singer and his wife became friends with the Hunts.
In 1961 the Hunts took a major risk.
They sold their family home in Little Rock and took out loans so they could launch a rice hull packaging operation. Johnnie ran the business while Johnelle took on clerical duties such as coordinating product shipping and bookkeeping while raising their children. In 1969, the couple bought five trucks and seven trailers to launch J.B. Hunt Transport Services.
By the early 1980s, the business had grown to become the 80th largest trucking company in the United States, and the Hunts decided to take the company public in 1983.
Based in Lowell, Arkansas, J.B. Hunt Transport Services is now one of the biggest transportation companies in the nation, with $9.64 billion in sales and over 24,000 employees.
After Johnnie died in 2006, Johnelle continued to run the business for two more years before stepping down and focusing on philanthropy and helping out communities in Arkansas.
This includes large donations to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and the Washington Regional Hospital in Fayetteville.
“My mother and daddy were just good about helping people. Your giving spirit comes from your past. I was fortunate in that I came from a family that believed in helping other people.” Johnelle Hunt
In 2001 The Hunts were inducted into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame, and in 2009 Johnelle received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by the University of Arkansas. In addition, last year, she was honored with a Legacy of Leadership award in the Arkansas Business of the Year Awards.
Readers, what do you think of Johnelle's story? Hopefully, it will serve as an inspiration to others in Arkansas.
Please leave your comments in the section below.