Businessman made his mark on Tulsa
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Friday, January 18, 2013
1/18/13 at 5:29 AM
A.W. Jenkins, a former Tulsa industrialist and businessman who later became a top aide to Oklahoma Gov. David Hall, died Dec. 30 in Tomball, Texas. He was 91.
No service is planned. Per his wishes, Jenkins' body was donated to science, family members said.
Jenkins, known to most by his nickname, "Sunny," was founder and president of Rocket Freight Lines.
A native of Ava, Mo., Jenkins moved to Tulsa in 1939, but he left after the Pearl Harbor invasion to enlist in the Army Air Forces.
As an engineer and top-turret gunner on a B-24 bomber, participating in many missions over Europe, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and five Air Medals.
Returning to Tulsa after the war, Jenkins worked for Chief Freight Lines as terminal manager.
Eventually he bought some other lines and formed Rocket Freight, built it up and, from there, expanded into other industries, including starting Tuloma Rigging.
Jenkins' support for David Hall began when the latter was the Tulsa County attorney, and he worked with the Democrat on his unsuccessful run for governor in 1966.
Jenkins was fundraiser for Hall's 1970 winning campaign, then he became an aide and close adviser during Hall's gubernatorial term. As such, he figured in the legal scandals that followed.
Between 1973 and 1976, Jenkins testified before multiple grand juries, both county and federal, that were investigating alleged corruption within Hall's administration.
Hall eventually served 19 months in federal prison on convictions for extortion and bribery after he left office.
Jenkins also was indicted once during that period, along with other officials, but the sole charge against him, for defrauding the state, was dropped.
A licensed pilot who also started his own air charter service, Jenkins continued to fly up until about a decade ago.
He made headlines in May 1975 when a plane he was flying crashed into Grand Lake after the engine failed.
Four children were passengers, but despite water filling the plane, Jenkins was able to get everyone out safely.
Jenkins was active in the Tulsa community and was a big donor toward the expansion of Skelly Field at the University of Tulsa.
Attorney and former Tulsa County District Judge Pete Messler, Jenkins' bosom companion and fishing buddy, said he "knew Sunny as well as I knew my own father."
"And I never knew anyone beloved by as many people," Messler said. "He had a heart of gold. He would give all that he could to anyone who needed it, no questions asked."
Messler hunted and fished with Jenkins, an avid outdoorsman.
Jenkins' favorite fishing area was in northwest Ontario, Canada, where he built a cabin and honed his craft to near-perfection on remote lakes.
Said Messler, "I've said many times, 'If God wanted to go fishing, he would go with Sunny Jenkins.' "
Jenkins lived in Tulsa until 2006, when he moved to Tomball to live with family members.
Sharon Haltom of Frisco, Texas, said her father "was a man that trusted most everyone he met, whether it got him in trouble or not. He always had a smile for everyone. That was just him."
Jenkins' survivors include his two daughters, Sharon Haltom and Kristi Jenkins; a sister, Rosie Crisswell; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
Tim Stanley 918-581-8385
A.W. Jenkins: He was a fundraiser for David Hall's winning 1970 campaign for Oklahoma governor and became a close adviser during Hall's gubernatorial term. Jenkins' friend and former Tulsa County District Judge Pete Messler said: "He had a heart of gold. He would give all that he could to anyone who needed it, no questions asked."