University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

James Kirk Thompson


James Kirk Thompson

J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc. 


In 1973 at age 19, Kirk Thompson was broke and dejected. His father had passed away, and Thompson decided to drop out of school at the University of Arkansas. He was overwhelmed, and he needed a job.

Thompson applied for a bookkeeping job at the J.B. Hunt Company located in Lowell. Co-owner Johnelle Hunt was not interested in Thompson, but she agreed to the interview as a favor to the employment agency.

They immediately hit it off. He was hired.

Thompson began work the next day and thrived at J.B. Hunt. After a year or so, he realized he needed to go back to school. Mrs. Hunt encouraged him to continue working while he pursued a degree in accounting. And that is exactly what he did.

Thompson was born in Little Rock in 1953 to James H. Thompson, a brakeman for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, and Mabel, a stay-at-home mom.

After graduating from the University of Arkansas, Thompson had a brief stint as an accountant at Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Co. – now known as KPMG – in Little Rock. Eighteen months later, he returned to J.B. Hunt and at just 26 years old, became the chief financial officer for the trucking company, which was experiencing explosive growth with $20 million in revenue.

In 1983, J.B. Hunt Transport Services made its initial public offering. That year, it would earn $63 million in revenue. Three years later, shareholders elected Thompson as president and chief operating officer. In 1987, Thompson was elected chief executive officer. By 1988, the company’s revenue had grown to nearly $400 million. In 2011, Thompson became chairman of the board and relinquished day-to-day operations.

Today, J.B. Hunt Transport Services has revenues of $7 billion making it one of the largest publicly held transportation logistics companies in North America. It operates nearly 13,000 trucks and employs more than 22,000 people.


View All Arkansas Business Hall of Fame Inductees