Meet the New Inductees to the Alabama Business Hall of Fame

Since 1973, the Alabama Business Hall of Fame has honored business professionals who have brought lasting acclaim or recognition to the state. This year, seven Alabama business professionals will be recognized as the latest inductees of the Alabama Business Hall of Fame at a celebration Nov. 15 in Birmingham.

Patricia “Sister Schubert” Barnes

Patricia Barnes, also known as “Sister Schubert,” built a company based on her grandmother’s recipe for yeast rolls, and her breads now grace family tables around the world. When Barnes first started selling her rolls for a church fundraiser in 1989, she was surprised at their instant popularity. After selling out of 300 pans of rolls at the 1991 church fundraiser, Barnes decided a bread business was worth pursuing.

She started Sister Schubert’s in her home kitchen and soon moved to a commercial kitchen in Troy before building her own space in Luverne, expanding several times in rapid succession. By 2000, the company was producing revenue of about $20 million annually and attracted the attention of Ohio-based Lancaster Colony Corp. Barnes chose to sell the company to Lancaster because of its “history of buying family-owned businesses, but keeping the family on board to help run the company,” she told East Alabama Living in 2011.

Today, Sister Schubert’s continues to operate from its Luverne headquarters as a subsidiary of Lancaster Colony Corp. The company produces more than 9 million rolls each day, and those rolls are distributed in every state in the country as well as internationally.

Barnes, who attended Troy University, Auburn University and The University of Alabama, sits on the Dean’s Board for the College of Human Sciences at Auburn University, as well as the board of the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame.

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Jeffrey Bayer

Birmingham residents and visitors may know Jeffrey Bayer best for his company’s signature retail development, The Summit, a 1 million-square-foot, upscale lifestyle center, which opened at the intersection of U.S. Highway 280 and Interstate 459 in 1997. The Summit was one of the retail industry’s first successful outdoor, mixed-use centers. After a successful launch of The Summit in Birmingham, Bayer and his company, Bayer Properties, have built other Summit centers in Kentucky, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

Jeffrey Bayer

Bayer founded Bayer Properties in 1983, and as president and CEO, oversees the strategic and operational direction of the company, which has become known as a trendsetter in the mixed-use property industry. Bayer Properties specializes in developing, leasing, managing and marketing mixed-use real estate properties nationwide. Over the years, Bayer has fostered the organization’s growth from a local property management firm to a national commercial real estate leader with a mixed-use asset portfolio of approximately 10 million square feet.

In addition to leading his own company, Bayer is a leader in Birmingham’s civic and philanthropic communities. He holds board positions with numerous organizations, including the Birmingham Education Foundation, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Leadership Alabama and Leadership Birmingham.

Bayer is also involved in leadership in the mixed-use and commercial real estate industry. A licensed real estate broker, he also holds the designation of Certified Commercial Investment Member, and is an international trustee for the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). He is also a member of ICSC’s PAC Leadership Advisory Group and has served as state director of the Alabama-Mississippi chapter of ICSC.

A graduate of the University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Business, Bayer sits on the University of Alabama President’s Cabinet, Culverhouse Board of Visitors and the University of Alabama at Birmingham President’s Cabinet executive committee. He also serves as a board member and on the executive committee for the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation.

Don James

Born and raised in Alabama, Don James built a longtime career as a lawyer and businessman who helped fashion one of the state’s largest public companies and has had an impact on the construction industry across the country.

Don James

A native of Russellville, James earned a bachelor’s degree and master of business administration degree at the University of Alabama. He left his home state to attend the University of Virginia School of Law, where he graduated in 1977. James returned to Alabama to begin his career as an attorney in Birmingham, where he worked at Bradley, Arant, Rose and White and eventually became a partner in the firm.

In 1992, James started working at Vulcan Materials Co., which he helped grow into the nation’s largest producer of construction aggregates such as crushed stone, sand and gravel, and a major producer of aggregates-based construction materials including asphalt and ready-mix concrete. These materials are used in nearly all forms of construction, including infrastructure such as roads and bridges, as well as residential and commercial buildings. James served as president of the company from 1996 to 1997, and as CEO from 1997 to 2015, when he retired.

He is a business and civic leader, serving on the boards of Wells Fargo & Co. and Southern Co., and formerly of Protective Life, SouthTrust Bank and Wachovia Bank. Previously, he has served on the boards of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Manufacturers Association, Birmingham Southern College and United Way of Central Alabama. He has also served as chairman of the Birmingham Museum of Art.

Charles McCrary

More than 1.4 million Alabama customers rely on Alabama Power to provide electricity service, and Charles McCrary’s leadership built a stronger company. During his tenure as CEO from 2001 to 2014, the company improved the relationship between management and the electrical labor union, improved working conditions for laborers, and pioneered new communications with customers during power outages.

Charles McCrary

McCrary started working at Alabama Power Co. in 1970, after completing his freshman year at Auburn University. After finishing a degree in mechanical engineering at Auburn, he began his full-time, four-decade career with the company. Over the years, McCrary moved into increasingly responsible roles. Before he was named CEO of Alabama Power, McCrary served as vice president for the company’s Southern Nuclear, president of Southern Company Generation, chief production officer of Southern Co. and president of Southern Power.

Along with leading the state’s largest energy company through a period of transformation, McCrary has been actively involved in the business community. He is a member of the board of Regions Financial Corp., the Auburn University Board of Trustees and the board of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. He also served as chairman of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and was a member of the boards of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International and Protective Life Corp.

Over the years, McCrary has remained committed to the advancement of his alma mater, participating on the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council, and helping secure funding for the Alabama Power Academic Excellence Program and the Alabama Power Nuclear Power Generation Systems program. In 2015, Auburn established the Charles D. McCrary Institute, which advances the research and development of new energy system technologies. In addition to his bachelor’s degree from Auburn, McCrary also holds a juris doctorate from Birmingham School of Law.

Randy Owen

Growing up on a farm near Fort Payne was the perfect environment for Randy Owen to develop his musical talent and establish the downhome roots that permeate his unique sound. Owen and two of his cousins started playing music together in the 1970s and signed their first recording contract in 1980. For almost 50 years, Owen has been the front man and lead vocalist of their legendary group, Alabama, among the most highly honored and beloved bands in country music history.

Randy Owen

Owen and his band have brought longtime acclaim to the state for which the band is named, releasing more than 20 gold and platinum records, dozens of No. 1 singles, and selling more than 80 million records. Alabama has received more than 250 music industry awards and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006.

Individually, Owen has also worked as a solo performer, releasing his solo debut album in 2008, with two singles hitting the charts. He has also been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Owen spends much of his time on humanitarian effort and launched the St. Jude Country Cares for Kids, an annual radio fundraising event that has raised more than $800 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He received the Ellis Island Award for his charity work with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

A graduate of Jacksonville State University, Owen and his wife, Kelly Owen, continue to live near Fort Payne and have remained involved in the local community over the years. Since 1985, Owen has hosted an annual golf tournament, which has raised more than $1 million to benefit the Alabama Sheriff’s Youth Ranches. The Owens also provided funding for the construction of the Kelly Owen Women’s and Children’s Pavilion at DeKalb Regional Medical Center in Fort Payne.

James Pursell

In 1956, James T. “Jimmy” Pursell joined Parker Fertilizer, which was owned by his father-in-law, Howard Parker, and had been started in 1904 by Howard’s father, DeWitt Parker. With a longtime focus on fertilizers for farms as well as golf courses, nurseries and consumers, the company benefited from Pursell’s interest in new technologies and approaches. In 1964, Pursell became president of the company and began to redirect the company away from traditional manure fertilizer to focus on newer specialty products, such as slow-release fertilizers.

James Pursell

In the 1980s, when new technologies were developed that improved the slow-release process, Pursell took the bold step of building a manufacturing plant focused on utilizing the new technology. The plant used a special coating known as sulfur-coated urea (SCU), which allowed the fertilizer to be released over a longer period of time, meaning fertilizers didn’t have to be applied as often and could provide essential nutrients for turf growth, color and disease resistance. In 1986, when the new plant opened to produce Pursell’s SulfurKote®, it was one of only four SCU plants in the world and brought national and international attention to the company, now known as Pursell Agri-Tech.

In 1997, Pursell and his son, David Pursell, relocated the company headquarters to the family farm. They also established Pursell Farms in Sylacauga, which has since transitioned into one of Alabama’s premier resorts, spanning 3,500 acres and featuring FarmLinks golf course.

Pursell attended Auburn University and supports a large number of initiatives at Auburn, including the Center for Organizational Cultures in the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, endowed chairs and programs for student athletes. He has served as chairman of the State of Alabama Ethics Commission.

John Rhoads

A graduate of the University of Alabama, John L. Rhoads was well-known for applying his brilliance and technical skills in helping Alabama entrepreneurs launch their businesses as a partner at accounting firm Ernst & Ernst. In 1989, Ernst & Ernst merged with Arthur Young & Co. to become Ernst & Young.

John Rhoads

Rhoads was a longtime executive committee member of the Jefferson County chapter of the University of Alabama National Alumni Association. He served as the organization’s vice president and treasurer for more than 20 years. He also served as council chairman of the State Society for the Alabama Society of Certified Public Accountants.

Rhoads was an ardent supporter of Alabama’s educational institutions, either by his service to the University of Alabama at Birmingham as an adjunct faculty member or through scholarship and programmatic support. In 2000, the University of Alabama built the John and Ann Rhoads Softball Stadium with support from the Rhoads family. Rhoads passed away in 2001, and his philanthropic support of Alabama educational institutions is kept ongoing by his widow, Ann.

Nancy Mann Jackson is a Birmingham-based freelance writer for Business Alabama.

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