Jimmy Rane From Hard Times to Hall of Fame: BIRMINGHAM, Ala. In the quaint town of Abbeville, South Alabama, Jimmy Rane’s office is a unique blend of tribute and workplace.
As the head of Great Southern Wood Preserving, Rane embodies the American dream. Tragedy struck in 1970 when he inherited the family business after the loss of his in-laws.
“We were always robbing Peter to pay Paul, always. We never, ever had any extra money,” Rane recalls. His father’s words, “It’s okay to give out but don’t ever, ever give up,” guided him through dark days.
To make ends meet, Rane juggled work at Great Southern Wood in the morning and served as an attorney and Henry County judge later in the day.
“I had two black telephones,” Rane reminisces. One for his law office, the other for Great Southern Wood Preserving.
An invitation to join a management program at Harvard Business School became his lifeline. During a study session on accounting, an epiphany struck him regarding the Browning Lumber Company case: a lack of funding.
Securing a daring $1 million loan, Rane gained approval for rapid growth. The company launched the famous “Yella Fella” ad campaign, propelling Rane into homes nationwide.
“I had a ball. I was in my 60s, riding horses, playing Cowboys and Indians—doing the things I’d always dreamed about.”
Now in his 70s, Rane has retired the “Yella Fella,” yet the company thrives with an annual revenue nearing $2 billion, earning him the title of the “Richest Man in Alabama.”
Uncomfortable with the designation, Rane emphasizes the company’s collective success. “You can’t eat but three meals a day, you can’t drive but one car, and you can’t wear but one pair of pants. The rest doesn’t amount to much.”
Financial concerns behind him, Rane reflects on his journey’s grit and grace. “If you have a dream, you don’t give up on it, you pursue it. The debt I owe to many partners and people who believed in me and gave me a chance, I can never repay.”
On Thursday, Rane enters the Alabama Business Hall of Fame, acknowledging his success owes much to those who believed in him along the way.