Born Billie Jean Hardin, in Waco, Texas, she was one of five children of Ben and Sue Hardin. Jean went on to earn a BA in journalism and advertising from Texas Christian University and an MBA from the University of Mexico. She pursued various advertising endeavors while traveling around the nation and overseas with her husband and growing family. In 1974, she decided they should make their permanent home in Raeford, a small North Carolina community bordering Fayetteville and Fort Bragg. There, she set out to make her true mark in the profession she loved.
Astutely recognizing the need for a local “ad agency” in the area, Jean founded the Fayetteville-based marketing, advertising and public relations firm, Hodges Associates. It was a courageous and entrepreneurial move. When Hodges Associates opened, there were no associates. Just Jean Hodges! And Jean was new to the area, so she had no contacts, no “ready-made” clients. Quickly, that began to change, and Hodges Associates grew to become a highly regarded agency serving local, regional, national and international clients.
Although in recent years, Jean’s daughter, Anna Hodges Smith, had taken the agency’s operating reins, Jean continued to be involved and provide her valuable insight. Jean inspired and mentored many people pursuing careers in marketing and advertising. And under her leadership, Hodges Associates earned numerous ADDYs and other awards for creative achievement and business excellence.
Among her many professional, personal, civic and community service achievements, Jean had a notable and lasting impact on the world of advertising. A staunch supporter of the American Advertising Federation, Jean founded the Fayetteville area AAF chapter. She served the organization in several local, regional and national leadership positions and earned the AAF Silver Medal and the Legion of Excellence Award. In 2001 – joining an elite group of industry professionals – she was inducted into the North Carolina Advertising Hall of Fame, established by the University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
Jean was honored personally with the first ATHENA Leadership Award given in the Fayetteville area. This national award recognizes recipients for outstanding work that benefits professional women. She was also named Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur from Methodist College (now Methodist University) in Fayetteville.
Community service was an important part of Jean Hodges’ life. For her, giving back meant supporting organizations and causes she truly believed in and making a wholehearted commitment to each and every role she took on. Numerous area organizations benefited from Jean’s contributions as a director, board/committee member or volunteer. They include the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce and other economic development groups, the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival, Boys & Girls Club of America, Association of the U.S. Army, Cape Fear Botanical Garden, Olde Fayetteville Association, the Women’s Forum of N.C., UNC Pembroke, Methodist University, the Hoke County Community Foundation, Hoke County Partners in Education, Raeford Presbyterian Church, Carolina Horse Park and the North Carolina Turkey Festival.
On the civic front, Jean served as a North Carolina delegate to the Governor’s Conference for Small Business and the White House Conference for Small Business – and as a Hoke County Commissioner. She also ran for the State Senate. Cumberland County honored Jean with the Civic Leader Marquee Award, and she received Citizen of the Year awards from the Hoke County Chamber of Commerce and the Raeford Kiwanis Club.
Jean’s resolve and commitment to succeed in every endeavor she undertook was evident early on. At age 12, polio left her with paralysis in her leg. Determined to recover, she focused on tennis and became runner-up to the Texas state champion. Jean loved to dance, played a mean game of bridge and piloted planes. She will be remembered fondly for her sharp mind, her keen sense of humor, her love of life, and the sage and candid advice she imparted to family, friends and business associates. She also leaves her indelible stamp as a pioneer and consummate “ad exec,” thanks to her hard work and the countless hours of service she donated in support of her profession.
Jean Hodges is survived by a husband, six children, ten grandchildren and six great grandchildren.