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UA Business Hall of Fame 2014: James H. Faulkner

6 min read

Not many men will say getting fired from a job was key to a business career, but that’s exactly what Jim Faulkner will tell you.

After working for a year with a Little Rock television station, the station manager told Faulkner, “I know you wanted to be a television newsman, but with that crewcut, you look too young for anyone to believe you. I’m going to have to let you go.”

That came as a shock. Faulkner had worked toward being a communicator for years. But from that setback he would go on to found the successful advertising and publishing businesses Faulkner & Associates, Falcon Productions, Falcon Publications and Jimco, Inc.

Faulkner was born in Malvern in 1932. His father was a merchant and his mother taught piano. He grew up with two younger brothers, Jerry and Bobby.

At 11, Faulkner had a paper route for the Arkansas Democrat, then for the Malvern Daily Record. At 14, he talked the Daily Record publisher into letting him write sports. While Faulkner was at the University of Arkansas, the Democrat hired him as a stringer to send daily reports on the Razorbacks. He majored in journalism, wrote for the university paper the Traveler, played clarinet in the school band and lettered on the tennis team.

His sophomore year, Faulkner was spotter for football broadcasts. When Faulkner was a senior, athletic director John Barnhill hired him to work in the sports publicity department. He graduated in 1954 and spent a year working for radio station KDAS before entering the United States Air Force. After that, Faulkner attended Northwestern University to study television journalism. He was offered a scholarship to continue, but with his wife and child to support, Faulkner went to work – at the ill-fated television job.

Faulkner gave up television news and looked to advertising. There were no agencies in Pine Bluff, so he opened his one-man firm there on Sept. 3, 1957.

His first client was Charles Gordon, president of Southern Federal Savings and Loan, an account Faulkner had for the next 25 years. Over the next three years, the agency added steel building manufacturer Varco, archery equipment manufacturer Ben Pearson, transformer manufacturer Central Maloney and Simmons First National, the largest bank in southeast Arkansas.

Faulkner eventually hired 10 employees and discovered that Worthen Bank, the state’s largest, was considering an agency change. The Faulkner agency, which had a reputation for unique television spots, showed the Worthen executives samples and agreed to open an office in Little Rock. The account came Faulkner’s way.

Premiums were a hot item in banking, so the Faulkner group set up a separate company – Jimco, Inc. – to produce them. The first item was a talking Razorback doll called Little Soo. At the pull of a string, Little Soo would say “Woo Pig Sooie,” “Beat Texas” and several other cheers. Worthen asked over 20 other banks to join them in the program. The banks sold 35,000 dolls and received national publicity. That led to doll programs for banks in Oklahoma and Nebraska. In all, 60,000 dolls were sold in the three states.

For five years in the 1970s, the agency represented the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission, building a campaign around hunting and fishing in Arkansas and highlighting the state’s advantages with slogans such as “Aim for a More Strategic Location. Set Your Site on Arkansas.” The series won awards at both state and district levels.

The soybean division of the Arkansas Rice Growers had the agency provide a label and marketing for a new shortening product, Chef-way. That program won first place in a district contest in 1971. The American Soybean Association asked Jim to fly to Italy to consult with a company planning to produce a shortening product using American soybeans.

When he returned, he learned that Dillard’s Department Stores, the largest advertising account in the state, had decided to make an agency change. Since television would be the primary medium, Faulkner saw an opportunity to establish Arkansas’ first video production studio, headed by Gary Jones, and won the Dillard’s business.

Faulkner has been a photo hobbyist since he was a teen but rarely used his photos in agency work. He was intrigued by an opportunity to go on a National Geographic exploration of the Omo River in Ethiopia. He sent in photos and was chosen. The float in rubber rafts was a three-week trip on what is considered the most crocodile infested river in the world. Two memorable moments were when Faulkner presented a Little Soo doll to a tribal chief’s daughter at one stop and when the 20 participants had a private audience with Emperor Haile Selassie. Faulkner’s trip photos were exhibited at the Arkansas Arts Center.

In 1981, Faulkner read that the video movie rental business was hot in California. There were no video distributors in Arkansas or the five surrounding states, and movie companies encouraged him to start one. Falcon Video Distributors was born. Faulkner set up a telemarketing organization, and the distributorship was an immediate success. He sold his advertising business to Memphis’ leading advertising group, Walker and Associates, to devote time, money and attention to the distribution business.

Faulkner later sold that business with the understanding he would retain rights to a magazine — TAKE ONE — he had started that promoted new movies released to video stores. TAKE ONE, under the editorial leadership of Eddie Best, was published in English, French and Spanish and could be customized to fit stores needs. Circulation in 1981 was 8,000; when the magazine was sold in 1992 circulation was 1,600,000 per month.

Faulkner then turned his attention to investments, primarily with friends made during his career. Today he is a director in First Security Bancshares and is a partner with the Lindsey organization in apartment developments in central Arkansas.

Faulkner has been honored many times for his professional and business accomplishments.

He is past president of Southwestern Association of Advertising Agencies and past chairman of the Southwest Council of the American Association of Advertising Agencies. He received the Silver Medal Award from the Arkansas Advertising Federation and is recognized on the wall of honor at the Lemke School of Journalism at the University of Arkansas.

Faulkner has lectured at the National Bank Marketing School and the marketing and journalism departments at the University of Arkansas, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the University of Colorado.

Faulkner also has been recognized for his community service. He was University of Arkansas volunteer of the year in 2004 and has served in the following capacities: district chairman, American Red Cross; tri-county chairman, Boy Scouts of America; vice chairman, Arkansas Olympic Committee; vice president for development, Arkansas Easter Seal Association; director, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Association; steering committee, University of Arkansas Campaign Arkansas; founding committee member, Towers of Old Main Society; founding committee member, Arkansas Tennis Patrons Association; finance chairman, St. James United Methodist Church; and co-chairman, St. James United Methodist Building Campaign. He currently serves as a director of the University of Arkansas Foundation, a member of the Steering Committee of the University of Arkansas Campaign Arkansas and as a trustee of St. James United Methodist Church.

In 2012, the Faulkners made a challenge gift that would enable the University of Arkansas band to purchase new uniforms. They also made the lead pledge that will allow the Old Field House on the campus to be transformed into a performing arts center.

Jim Faulkner and his wife Joyce live in Little Rock. They have five children and eight grandchildren. All five of the children worked in Faulkner’s businesses and all five attended the University of Arkansas. Joyce Faulkner graduated with honors from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Traveling is a passion for the Faulkners. They have visited 127 countries and all seven continents.

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