Jim Barksdale, Founder
Jim Barksdale is the chairman of the board and president of Barksdale Management Corporation, a private company that manages his investments and philanthropic activities. He also serves as chairman of Spread Networks, a company he helped establish in 2009. Jim has more than 35 years of operational experience. He served as president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Netscape Communications Corp. from January 1995 until the company merged with America Online in March 1999. He was director of Netscape from October 1994. Upon completion of the merger with America Online, Jim joined Time Warner’s board of directors.
Prior to Netscape, Jim was CEO of AT&T Wireless Services (formerly McCaw Cellular Communications). From January 1992 to September 1994, he served as president and chief operating officer (COO) of McCaw Cellular. From April 1983 to January 1992, Jim served as executive vice president and COO at Federal Express Corporation, and prior to that, he served as the company’s chief information officer (CIO) for four years. From the time he began his career at IBM, Jim has held various management positions, including CIO of Cook Industries, and President of Cook Treadwell and Harry, an insurance brokerage firm and subsidiary of Cook Industries. Under Jim’s leadership, Netscape received the “Entrepreneurial Company of the Year” award from both Stanford and Harvard Business School alumni groups in 1997.
Additionally, Computer Reseller News named Jim “#1 Executive of the Year,” while PC Magazine selected him “Person of the Year.” At the 1997 ETRE Conference in Budapest, Jim received the “Executive of the Year” award. He also earned the BEAR Award from Brown University for citizenship and the CIO Council for the United States awarded him the Industry Executive of the Year in 2006.
The Barksdale Foundation established the Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi in 1997. In January 2000, Jim and his late wife Sally invested $100 million to create The Barksdale Reading Institute to help Mississippi children improve their reading skills. In 2009, Jim was awarded The Working for Academic Excellence Award (HEADWAE) from the State of Mississippi for his overall contribution of the state’s public and private institutions of higher learning. In addition, he received the national NetDay Hero Award for his work for education. He was later awarded the 2012 Winter-Reed Partnership Award for his work on education in Mississippi. He has earned inductions into the University of Mississippi Hall of Fame, the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame and the Memphis Society of Entrepreneurs.
In 2008, Jim and his wife, Donna Kennedy Barksdale, presented a gift to the University of Mississippi for the creation of the Mississippi Principal Corps, an initiative designed to change the way Mississippi school principals are trained. Jim and Donna have also sponsored Parents for Public Schools’ “Schoolhouse to Statehouse” project, which trains parents to become more engaged with public schools in the state. They were both selected for the 2014 Legacy Award given by the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy. The award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions as philanthropists, leaders and mentors and through these contributions have brought about definitive, positive change in the University of Mississippi, the state and nation.
Immediately after Hurricane Katrina, Jim was appointed by then-Governor Haley Barbour to chair the Governor’s Commission on the Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal of Mississippi. He subsequently was asked by Governor Barbour to chair the Mississippi Broadband Connect Coalition (MBCC). Recommendations from this coalition will be used to develop a strategy for broadband development and use in Mississippi. In January 2012, Governor Phil Bryant appointed Jim as interim Executive Director of the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), the state’s lead economic development agency. Later that year, Governor Bryant also appointed him as co-chair of Mississippi Works, a working group of Mississippi business leaders focused on achieving greater economic success for the state.
Jim sits on the boards of several companies and foundations, including Time Warner; Federal Express; Mayo Clinic (past Chairman), In-Q-Tel and America’s Promise. Jim was also appointed to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board by President George W. Bush.
He received his B.A. in Business Administration from the University of Mississippi. In 1997 he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Rhodes College and in 2001 the University of Mississippi conferred the Mississippi Humanitarian Award to him. Millsaps College awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2003, and in 2012, Duke University awarded him an honorary degree.
Donna Barksdale is a Mississippi native and the wife of Jim Barksdale. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and English and a master’s degree in counseling from Mississippi College. Donna is a former businesswoman and fashion designer who is passionate about growing Mississippi’s creative economy. She dedicates her time to working with charitable organizations, including the Barksdale Reading Institute, America’s Promise Alliance, the Mississippi Arts Commission and Operation Shoestring.