Longtime former Gregg County lawmaker dies at 87

James Earl Mankins Sr.





Longtime trucking operator and political leader James Earl Mankins Sr. will be remembered by a friend as someone who was honest and hard working.

Mankins died Tuesday in Longview. He was 87.

R.E. "Sonny" Spradlin, 83, knew him for 60 years. Spradlin recalled Mankins' work habits, saying that his friend "worked like a Trojan horse" and "would be… with his trucks all day."

"He was just a good man. He was a friend and a good man. We had a lot of work relations, (and) we socialized together," Spradlin said. 

Mankins, of Kilgore, graduated from Kilgore High School and attended Texas A&M University, until serving as a tail gunner during World War II in the U.S. Air Force. Helater received an associate's degree from Kilgore College, where he met his wife, Virginia Henley. He went on to receive a bachelor's of business administration from North Texas State University, and returned to Kilgore and worked in the family business, Eagle Trucking Company, according to information from his obituary.

He started as a driver's helper but eventually became owner operator where his company hauled oilfield drilling rigs and equipment and heavy hauling for more than 50 years.

During his time there, the company expanded to a fleet of more than 300 trucks and nine trucking terminals in multiple states. He is described as a "hard worker" who "never expected any more from him employees than he was willing to do himself," according to his obituary with Rader Funeral Home.

Mankins also had a political career that started in the mid-1960s when he was City Commissioner of Kilgore.

He later was elected to the Texas House of Representatives serving Gregg County for four terms. He also served on various committees, including being the chairman of the House Committee on Energy Resources and Committee on Transportation. He also served on various other committees, including the Employment Practices Committee.

His other civic involvement included the Kilgore Rotary Club where he received the Paul Harris Fellow Award-Rotary International, the Kilgore Chamber of Commerce, East Texas Chamber of Commerce and Longview Chamber of Commerce.

He contributed to numerous charitable organizations such as Shriners and St. Jude hospitals and Presbyterian Children and Family Services. He was an active member of the Danville Masonic Lodge and the Sharon Shrine Temple.

Mankins attended First Presbyterian Church in Kilgore, where he served as a deacon.

Following his retirement, he continued to work as a trucking business consultant and at his grandson's hardware store.

He is survived by numerous family, including his wife of 65 years, Virginia and five children.

The funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at the First Presbyterian Church in Kilgore, followed by burial in the Kilgore Cemetery. Family will receive friends between 6 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Rader Funeral Home. Rader Funeral Home has charge of arrangements.




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