Jenkins receives national award from leadership organization
By David Zaslawsky
Photography by Robert Fouts
Leadership Montgomery was formed 32 years to get people talking to each other instead of at each other.
A confrontation between Taylor family members and Montgomery police officers on Todd Road turned violent and it shook the Capital City. The impetus for creating Leadership Montgomery was “that communication between the black and the white community was through the press,” recalled Mike Jenkins IV, who founded Leadership Montgomery along with George Goodwyn, Lanny Crane and Solomon S. Seay Jr.
“It wasn’t sitting down like you and I are doing,” Jenkins said. “Communicating through the press is not an efficient way or effective way of leading.”
The goal was bringing together a diverse group of people – black and white; men and women from all walks of life. It was not about leadership training, but about “getting that leadership together and getting to know each other and learning something about the community. Out of those relationships things have happened – positively.”
So, what has changed from 32 years ago? “If we had a community crisis today – and this has been said by many people, it’s likely that whatever the nature of it might be – I think there would be enough telephone calls from across the city to do something about it,” Jenkins said.
He rejoined the Leadership Montgomery Board of Directors last year. “I don’t know if it’s (the organization) any different. My impression is that the people in the room are having a good time. They like each other. It’s very relaxed.”
He sees men and women; he sees black and white; and Jenkins sees people from all walks of life together – developing relationships. “Coming back subsequently and seeing the dream in reality,” he said.
Jenkins, the former president and chairman of Jenkins Brick Co., was also on the steering committee for Leadership Montgomery and chairman of the board of directors. He along with fraternity brother Bill Smith founded Leadership Alabama, which earlier this year celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Having been so instrumental in both Leadership Montgomery and Leadership Alabama, Jenkins was one of 16 nominees who received the Distinguished Leadership Award from the Association of Leadership Programs.
He said he was grateful for the award and what meant the most to him was forming Leadership Montgomery and Leadership Alabama. Jenkins said that he was very appreciative of comments made by Harold Boone, former Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce vice president for Minority Business Development & Leadership Programs; and Leadership Montgomery Executive Director Cheryl Carter.
Boone, who nominated Jenkins, wrote: “Mike is the consummate business and community leadership professional. His footprint and positive commitment have resulted in a singular difference in the quality of life and significantly improved race relations in the River Region.
“He was an instrumental founder of Leadership Montgomery over 32 years ago and has recently rejoined its Board – still committed to seeing the organization remain relevant today. He is well known for his work in both preservation of civil rights history and building bridges between community leaders.”
Carter wrote: “As a founding member of Leadership Montgomery, Mr. Jenkins has selflessly dedicated himself to the success of this program since its beginning 32 years ago.
He is a well-known and beloved member of the business community. Mr. Jenkins has been active in numerous civic and professional organizations and has received many honors for his commitment to community.”
She also praised Jenkins’ 40-plus-year career with Jenkins Brick Co. He started as a salesperson and rose to plant manager, senior vice president, and president, and was chairman when on Jan. 31, 2011 he sold Jenkins Brick Co. to Acme Brick, a Berkshire Hathaway company.
“Under his leadership, Jenkins Brick grew in its reputation as a major national manufacturer of brick as it built up a network of retail outlets across the Southeastern U.S., selling brick, ceramic stone, tile and other ceramic construction material,” Carter wrote. “At its peak in 2007, Jenkins Brick was one of the largest brick manufacturers in the U.S.”
In 2007, the company had 652 employees and operated 25 locations in five states. From 1985 to 2007, Jenkins Brick grew by a multiple of 26 times while the brick industry output grew from 8 billion bricks per year in 1950 to 10 billion in 2007 – a 25 percent increase.
In the spring, Jenkins spoke at Leadership Alabama’s 25th anniversary in Birmingham and said it was “a radical organization in as much as it doesn’t promote anything. What we do is get leaders who are otherwise disconnected together, and over the course of a class year, you can’t help but get to know each other.”
The classmates develop relationships and “momentum occurs and the vapor comes together to create stuff. It is really an organization with the intent to connect already established leaders and develop relationships and in doing so changes the community.”