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Former area lawmaker Jimmy Earl Mankins dies at 87

From Staff Reports
Aug. 20, 2013 at 11 p.m.


Former state Rep. James Earl "Jimmy" Mankins Sr. died Tuesday in Longview. He was 87.

Mankins, a longtime trucking company operator, represented Gregg County in the state Legislature from 1974 through 1984.

"He was probably one of the most respected legislators we've had," said Mickey Smith, a former Kilgore mayor and Gregg County judge. "Jimmy Earl was pretty quiet, moved real quietly. He was real congenial and could get things done."

Born Feb. 9, 1926, in Electra, Mankins served in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a tail gunner during World War II.

After the war, he returned to East Texas to study at Kilgore College, where he received an associate of arts degree in 1948. While at Kilgore College, Mankins met and married Virginia Henley.

He completed his education at North Texas State University, graduating in 1950 with a bachelor's degree in business administration.

Mankins returned to Kilgore and worked in the family business, Eagle Trucking Co., hauling oil field drilling rigs and other heavy equipment. He started as a driver's helper and worked his way up to president, eventually expanding the company to include a fleet of more than 300 trucks and nine trucking terminals in several states.

Longtime Kilgore businessman Sonny Spradlin recalled knowing Mankins in his early days in business.

"We grew up in the oil field together and learned how to make a living with our hands and our backs," said Spradlin, 83. "He was a dedicated worker in the oil field. He was honest, truthful, and helped a lot of people."

Mankins began his political career in the mid-1960s as a Kilgore city commissioner.

In 1974, he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives, eventually serving Gregg County for five terms.

As a state representative, Mankins was appointed to the House Committee on Energy Resources and House Committee on Transportation.

Smith, the former Kilgore mayor, recalled narrowly fending off a challenge from Mankins when he briefly emerged from the Legislature in 1981.

"I think I beat him by nine or 10 votes," Smith said.

Mankins, a Democrat, made his run for Kilgore mayor after losing his seat in the House of Representatives to Republican Mike Martin in the 1980 general election. But Martin resigned from the House after pleading guilty to perjury charges said to be related to a scheme to advance his political career, and Mankins regained the seat in a 1982 special election.

Gregg County Pct. 3 Commissioner Gary Boyd moved to the Kilgore area after Mankins had served in Austin, but said he came to know the former lawmaker at Kilgore First Presbyterian Church.

"He was a prince of a guy, participating in the men's group, just supportive of everything the church was about," Boyd said. "He's certainly been a willing, caring participant in the activities of this church and the community. And he's someone who will be missed in Kilgore, Texas."

Mankins also was a longstanding member of the Kilgore Rotary Club, where he was a Paul Harris Fellow. He was a member of the Kilgore Chamber of Commerce, East Texas Chamber of Commerce and Longview Chamber of Commerce.

From 1960 to 1980, he was a member of the board of the Oilfield Haulers Association, and served as its president from 1968 to 1970.

Mankins also was a member of the Texas Motor Transportation Association board of directors from 1966 to 1974.

After retiring, he continued to work as a consultant in the trucking industry and at his grandson's hardware store.

Mankin is survived by his wife of 65 years, Virginia; and their children.

Funeral services are set for 10 a.m. Friday at First Presbyterian Church in Kilgore, with the Rev. Scott Nowack officiating. Burial will follow in Kilgore Cemetery.

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