Jamestown booster Hawkins dies at 96A southern gentleman who chose to live most of his life in North Dakota has passed away. Reese Hawkins, 96, who worked for years to promote Jamestown, died in his sleep June 23 in Texas.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
A southern gentleman who chose to live most of his life in North Dakota has passed away.
Reese Hawkins, 96, who worked for years to promote Jamestown, died in his sleep June 23 in Texas.
“A lot of people would classify him that way,” said Allan Hawkins, Reese’s son. “Especially in the late 1950s it was unusual for someone from outside the area (to live) in Jamestown. Jamestown has changed since then.”
“He was the epitome of the southern gentleman,” said Shelly Jystad, whose family had adopted Reese as a grandfather figure. “He had a deep appreciation for life and community.”
Most of the time his southern roots were only slightly detectable in his speech, said Meredith Hawkins Wallin, daughter of Reese Hawkins.
“But when he traveled south his accent would get more pronounced,” she said.
Reese Hawkins grew up in South Carolina and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. It was during that time that he met his future wife. Margaret Benson had grown up in Bottineau, N.D. and was serving as a social worker for the American Red Cross. She brought Reese back to North Dakota after the war and they were married in Bottineau in 1946.
Margaret Hawkins died in 2008 at the age of 91.
Reese Hawkins graduated from pharmacy school at the North Dakota Agricultural College in 1950 and briefly operated a pharmacy in Guilford College, N.C. However, North Dakota seemed to call him back, Allan Hawkins said.
“He worked about a year in Bottineau then purchased Clinic Drug here in Jamestown,” he said. “That name didn’t have much personality so they renamed it Hawkins Clinic Drug.”
The drug store later became Ronholm Drug and is now Walz Pharmacy.
During the years that Reese Hawkins operated the pharmacy and in his retirement years he was active in promoting Jamestown and North Dakota.
“I don’t think Jamestown could have asked for a better ambassador than Reese,” said Nina Sneider, executive director of Buffalo City Tourism Foundation. “He was one of a kind and always promoted Jamestown wherever he went.”
That promotion included serving on the board that planned and executed the construction of the World’s Largest Buffalo, now known by the name Dakota Thunder.
“He was very instrumental in getting things done,” said Harold Newman, also a committee member on the World’s Largest Buffalo project. “When the concept of building a monument came up there were a lot of challenges. Where do you put it, what do you build, how to get enough money.”
Newman said Reese Hawkins’ commitment to the community went beyond helping to create a monument.
“He had an eye for promoting the community,” Newman said. “Especially through his friendship with Louis L’Amour.”
L’Amour was born and raised in Jamestown and had gone on to become a popular western writer with more than 300 million copies of his books in print.
Allan Hawkins relates how L’Amour and Reese Hawkins met.
“Mom (Margaret Hawkins) had wrote to the governor nominating Louis L’Amour for the Roughrider Award,” he said. “They were going to California to visit Mom’s sister and I suppose my mother said ‘we’re in the area, lets visit Louis L’Amour.”
Reese Hawkins and L’Amour shared a lunch at the Polo Lounge in Hollywood that was the start of a long-lasting friendship.
“I think it is accurate to say Louis L’Amour and Reese were best friends for 20 years,” Allan Hawkins said. “Maybe it was because Dad wasn’t part of the Hollywood world.”
Fred Walker, director of international tourism for the North Dakota Tourism Division and a former Jamestown resident, said Reese Hawkins was one of the last links the community had to the author.
“We lost our last connection to one of our home grown,” he said. “On a personal side we lost a great historian and story teller.”
Reese Hawkins had worked with others to try to bring a museum dedicated to Louis L’Amour to Jamestown.
“They had a dream to bring a Louis L’Amour Interpretive Center here,” Allan Hawkins said. “I’m sure they are looking down and still hoping to see it happen.”
Reese Hawkins retired from the pharmacy in 1978 and returned to North Carolina. After about 20 years he and Margaret returned to Jamestown. It was at that time he started a new endeavor.
“He didn’t publish his first book until he was in his 80s,” Allan Hawkins said.
His first book, “Remembering Louis L’Amour”, was about his friendship with the author and was co-written with Wallin. His second book, “Grandmother Alice”, was about Alice Crain Hawkins and chronicled her life in South Carolina from the Civil War through the 1930s.
In his 90s, Reese Hawkins found another way to promote Jamestown and its ties to Louis L’Amour.
He was a regular fixture during the summer at the Writer’s Shack in the Frontier Village. The small building was a tribute to Louis L’Amour and his books. Reese Hawkins would greet visitors and talk about the author and his books.
“He was there most every day in 2010 and a few days in 2011,” Sneider said. “You would hope Jamestown figures out a way to memorialize both Reese and Margaret for all the work and effort they put in to the community.”
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at email@example.com