James W. Rane, or Jimmy Rane as he’s known by most, was the featured speaker this week at the annual Mountain Brook Chamber of Commerce Award Luncheon. He’s best known as the Yella Fella in the commercials for Great Southern Wood Preserving headquartered in Abbeville, Alabama.
The Mountain Brook folks were kind enough to ask me to emcee the event, and it was a good way to spend the lunch hour.
He gave a very good talk and everyone enjoyed that. But, what I enjoyed the most was sitting next to him while he was speaking. He and I have a few things in common. We’re country folks who have spent a good part of our lives working at what we love and doing all we can to make our Dad’s proud of us. That can be a good thing or it can be a thing that will wear you out. Jimmy Rane is a lawyer, but a friend of his told me today, “Jimmy’s really too nice to be a lawyer.” I don’t know about that, but I do admire his work ethic, his determination and his generosity.
Jimmy Rane just about went broke trying to get his company going back in the 70’s. Today, Great Southern Wood Preserving the largest manufacturer of treated lumber in the world. Through the Jimmy Rane Foundation he has given college scholarships to 153 deserving students. I like how they choose the scholarship winners too. They give them to the ones they call “the kids in the middle.” It’s their thinking that very poor kids have many avenues for Pell grants and scholarships, and kids from wealthy families can afford to go to school and the really smart ones get scholarships anyway.
So, the Jimmy Rane foundation gives scholarships to good kids who need a helping hand. Students have to be pretty good students who work hard. They need to come from hard working families who just need some extra help. Jimmy Rane mentioned single Mom’s who provide their children’s needs, but find the cost of college overwhelming. Those are the students the Jimmy Rane Foundation looks for.
Jimmy Rane serves on the board of trustees at Auburn University. He lives and works in his hometown of Abbeville. That friend I mentioned says Jimmy is dedicated to his elderly parents and brings them into town often for lunch. Others tell how Jimmy buys old dilapidated buildings in Abbeville, fixes them up and either moves some of his company workers into them or finds other uses for them. He’s giving back to his hometown, to his state and to many others.
He talked a lot about our economy and how we’ve got to get a handle on our nation’s debt. As successful businessman he knows that the bleeding has to stop, that you can’t keep spending what you don’t have. He says fixing our borrowing and spending habits won’t be easy, but it will have to be done.
Maybe our elected folks would do well to listen to people like Jimmy Rane, people who have built something from nothing, people who understand risk and hard work and personal responsibility.
I’m going to go to Abbeville one of these days and spend a little time with Jimmy Rane and do a good story about him. Something tells me it’s a story that will pretty much write itself.
See you weeknights at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00pm.
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