Wade H. Creekmore, Jr. and James H. Creekmore, Sr., founders of C Spire, the largest privately held wireless company in the country, headlined the honorees present at the 2018 Mississippi Innovators Hall of Fame Awards Gala at the Country Club of Jackson on September 13, 2018.
The Creekmore brothers received the “Legend Award,” the highest honor bestowed at the event. The Gala’s presenting sponsor was mTrade of Oxford; the Mississippi Innovators Hall of Fame is a production of Innovate Mississippi.
To start the evening’s ceremony, Innovate Mississippi CEO Tony Jeff introduced representatives of the four companies honored as 2018 Innovation Impact recipients—ALGIX, BHN, EdgeTheory and Kopis Mobile.
Jeff then introduced Innovate Mississippi board member Jan Farrington, who served as host of the event (with her husband, Lawrence), who introduced the first inductee, Gail Pittman.
“Tell me how blessed I feel right now,” said Gail Pittman, as she received her award.
“You never get to places like this without the people who believe in you. Mississippi… believed in me, Madison County believed in me, my friends who are here to honor me believed in me,” Pittman said, then thanking her husband, who she called, “the smartest man in the room.”
“He encouraged me,” she said, “So much so that later on… we would go to a dinner party and he would say, ‘This is my wife Gail. She paints bowls. Do you want one?’ He was my first salesman, too,” she said, to appreciative laughter.
“This is a great moment for me. I am very honored. Thank you,” she said.
John Hairston, president of Hancock Whitney Bank, introduced the video for Leo Seal, Jr., the second inductee in the Mississippi Innovators Hall of Fame. During his remarks he relayed advice that Seal had offered to him when he was a young manager in the bank:
“Three things exist in great companies: they have the best tools, they have the best people, and they have the best heart,” he recounted Seal as having said. “At least have the best heart and you’ll always be able to do OK.”
The Triton founders—Dr. Ernest Burdette, Robert Sandoz and Frank Wilem, Jr., were present to be inducted into the Mississippi Innovators Hall of Fame, recognized for their innovations in building ATM machines that didn’t have to be attached to banks, ultimately growing to the point that they sold more ATM machines in one year than any other company in the country.
Dr. Burdette, in accepting the award, said “Because we were friends, we decided to be equal partners in the business—that’s how we started the business and that’s how we ended it.”
“It’s an unusual situation that you can be friends after running a business for 25 years,” he said.
For the final presentation of the evening, Dr. Bill Rayburn, chairman and CEO of mTrade, introduced former Legend Award winner Ambassador John Palmer who, in turn, introduced Wade and Jimmy Creekmore.
Wade Creekmore, in accepting his recognition, used the opportunity to instead praise Dr. Jeff Bullington, the leader of the chess program in Franklin County that Creekmore has helped create for public school students. Creekmore gave Bullington credit for the success of the program and had him stand up to be applauded by the crowd.
When Jimmy Creekmore took the podium, he thanked all the people in the room and said “I wish so many other people who have helped Wade and me could have been here, too.” He congratulated the other Mississippi Innovators Hall of Fame inductees and Innovation Impact honorees.