Arkansas Business Hall of Fame 2012: John Ed Anthony

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Jan. 30, 2012 12:00 am  

John Ed AnthonyChairman, Anthony Timberlands, Inc.Bearden

John Ed Anthony
Chairman, Anthony Timberlands, Inc.

John Ed Anthony's family name has been associated with lumber and timber in south Arkansas for over 100 years, and he has been a key part of that formula for the past 50. The extensive Anthony family of today began when John Ed's great-great grandfather Addison arrived in the Camden area as a young man in the 1840s. Garland, his grandson, was born in 1884 and grew up near Bearden where his family farmed and raised livestock. Garland's grandson, John Ed, was born Feb. 14, 1939, in Camden.The Anthony family business started simply. Following the arrival of the Cotton Belt Railroad, Garland and his uncle built a tiny sawmill beside the tracks in 1907. Their partnership was short lived. His uncle threw up his hands one day and said, "Garland if you'll pay for this darned thing you can have it. 'm going back to the farm." Garland later said, "I knew I could do it." And he did.

The Anthony family evolved from subsistence farming into lumber manufacturing and timber management when Garland and three brothers formed Anthony Brothers Lumber Company, which operated into the 1920s. Numerous family partnerships operated mills throughout the depression and the war years. They acquired cut-over timberland, nurturing it back to health and their assets grew. As the families grew, the brothers scattered and most partnerships were dissolved.

In the 1950s Mr. Garland's family was headquartered in Bearden with Garland's eldest son Ted, John Ed's father, managing the lands and Bearden Lumber Company. John Ed, the only child of Ted, worked in the mill and woods during the summers. In 1957, John Ed left for the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, the first of the family to attend college. A month before John Ed's graduation day in 1961, Ted, age 48, died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack.

John Ed graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and went home to Bearden. There 22-year-old John Ed and his 77-year-old grandfather Garland joined as partners. The leadership of the family enterprises fell upon John Ed, who pulled together the old partnerships -- holdings that were often documented only by deeds in a cigar box and agreements on the back of envelopes or just word of mouth.

The first step was replacing the old wooden sawmill in Bearden. By 1966, a modern new concrete and steel facility had been erected. During this period many small forest products companies were consolidating. John Ed, seeing opportunity to grow the company, approached his Bearden partners with a plan for expansion. They declined to participate at their advanced age. This resulted in the formation of his Anthony Timberlands, Inc. (ATI) with the 1974 acquisition of a mill and timberland in Malvern and later Benton, while expanding the ownership of land for the other partnerships. In 1981, International Paper's hardwood plant in Beirne in Clark County was acquired as was a substantial block of timberland. Mill modernization and expanded production with a focus on specialty products for domestic and overseas markets was on John Ed's agenda. Timberland acreage of 70,000 owned in 1961 would grow to 180,000 acres by 2006, with another 30,000 acres managed under the ATI umbrella.

ATI became the largest independent owner of timberland in Arkansas with three big mills in operation. Coupled with this was the formation of Anthony Wood Treating in Hope and Anthony Hardwood Composites, a hardwood laminating plant for industrial matting, in Sheridan. These enterprises have total revenues of $200 million a year.

In normal operation, the company has 12 graduate foresters to supervise forest operations plus about 750 direct employees working in the mills and offices with another 200 in logging, 100 in trucking and 50 in security. In 2004, Anthony's son Steven was named president of ATI, a position John Ed had held for 43 years.

Today the ATI headquarters in Bearden is only three miles from the location of the original Anthony mill built by John Ed's grandfather. But what has gotten Anthony the most press over the years is not his timber business but the thoroughbreds he races. Over a 25-year period starting in 1973 Loblolly Stable, named for a species of pine tree, raced horses named for familiar landmarks and communities in south Arkansas. It maintained one of the premier thoroughbred racing and breeding operations in the United States. Temperence Hill won the Belmont in 1980, Pine Bluff the Preakness in 1992 and Prairie Bayou the Preakness in 1993.

During the same period there were three Arkansas Derby winners: Temperence Hill, Demons Begone and Pine Bluff. Temperence Hill, Vanlandingham and Prairie Bayou were Eclipse Award winning champions of their generations. John Ed was honored in 2001 by being inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Although Loblolly was dispersed in the mid 1990s, Anthony continues his interest in racing as Shortleaf Stable, named after a different kind of pine tree. He has served as an officer of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and was elected to membership in The Jockey Club of New York in 1993.

Anthony has a wide range of other interests, including the ATI Scholarship program for graduates of Bearden High School. He has served as president of the Arkansas Forestry Association, a member of the Executive Committee of the Southern Forest Products Association, and he has testified in Washington on behalf of the Southern Forest Industry. He is chairman of the American Family Business Foundation of Washington, D.C., which seeks to influence tax policy on inheritance and estate matters.



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