James Ray Hawkins was a longtime Waco businessman and philanthropist who hosted countless community and social events with his wife, Nell, at the Hawksden mansion near Lake Waco.
Hawkins was 86 when he died on November 22, according to information provided by his family. His memorial service is scheduled for Tuesday at 2:00 pm at First His Baptist Church in Waco. Next is the reception.
The Bowie County town native of De Kalb had a great influence on what would become his hometown of Waco, where he started a company called J-Hawk. A company called J-Hawk specializes in the acquisition and recovery of troubled assets (usually defaulted real estate holdings). Operate or resell for commercial purposes. Friends will say that Hawkins liked to make deals and enjoyed Midas’ touch.
“I don’t have enough time, and you don’t have enough ink to describe Jim Hawkins.” I had a job and we were involved in countless deals.He was one of the smartest men I’ve ever known.I know it’s an overused term. He was happy to share his knowledge, and as a young broker he learned not just about business, but about life and how to treat people. It taught me so many things about.”
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Longtime friend Rondy Gray of Gin Rummy Foyle said he met Hawkins at a civic group meeting in 1964 at the Waco Jaycees, where he became a business partner.
“He did everything with a handshake. I didn’t know he would break the deal,” said Gray.
He said Hawkins took the same informal approach as Mars billionaire heiress Forrest Mars Jr., who came to Waco in search of a factory site. Mars started his Waco business in 1976, securing assets managed by Gray and Hawkins.
“We didn’t know Mr. Mars, but we met him and signed the deal,” Gray said, adding that the legal team that accompanied Mr. Mars wasn’t really needed.
Gray said he and other longtime friends visited Hawkins frequently until his death, and made sure to treat him with his favorite banana pudding.
Hawkins founded J-Hawk in the mid-1970s to capitalize on the glut of distressed assets on the market around the world. These included everything from apartments and retail stores to luxury yachts. Hawkins recounts a hurricane tracking a recovered yacht from Florida to Texas.
“We had a portfolio of yacht loans,” longtime business partner Jim Sartane commented on Hawkins’ business acumen and yacht stories. I loved living, that’s how I say it.”
Sartane said he had known Hawkins since the early 1970s. He called Hawkins a mentor. A lot of it rubbed off on me.
J-Hawk made a financial-world-shaking deal in 1995 to acquire Houston-based FirstCity Financial Corp. and move it to Waco. FirstCity was once a powerful banking company, but it has fallen on hard times.
“It was an important deal and a great deal,” Sartane said. “This made us a public company and improved our balance sheet.”
Hawkins left FirstCity in 2005 to start another company, and Sartin left after about two years. Minnesota’s Varde Partners announced that in 2013 he would acquire FirstCity and later he would close his Waco office.
“We got along well, but we didn’t always agree, what does your partner do?” Satan said.
He remembered a hunting trip to Mexico with Hawkins and another business leader, Clifton Robinson, and pigeon hunting in Argentina.
Baylor University released a statement saying, “Jim, along with his wife Nell, have been longtime loyal supporters of Baylor University. It was common to see them wearing their best greens and golds.The Hawkins have also long supported the Louise Herrington School of Nursing through the Going for the Gold Gala.”
“Jim Hawkins was a dedicated member of the Baylor community who sought to support the faculty, coaches, students and student-athletes of this college with words and actions,” Baylor University encouraged prayers to Nell Hawkins. Chancellor Linda A. Livingstone of
Hawkins turned down a football scholarship at the University of Arkansas to pave the way at Baylor with an accounting degree. After college, Hawkins enlisted in the Air Force and became a weather officer. In 1963 he became a certified public accountant and was a managing partner of the Greenstein & Hawkins CPA firm. According to information provided by his family, he purchased his Gibson discount his center in 1973 and has been a CPA for many years.
In 2005, Hawkins gave the lead gift to Baylor’s women’s basketball practice facility. According to information from the family, they traveled to New York in December 2011 to honor Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III at the invitation of close friend Alice and then-Baylor president Ken Starr Heisman. I attended the awards dinner.
They also provided a lead gift to the Jim and Nell Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center in Baylor. The family has asked the James R. Hawkins Endowment Fund of Baylor’s Hankammer School of Business, McLennan Community College Foundation, Cameron Park Zoo, and Fuzzy Friends Rescue to hold a memorial service.
“Waco has lost the best,” said Cromwell.