For the last several years coal magnate Garry Neil Drummond has held the spot of Alabama’s richest person, but he lost that crown this week to self-made lumber salesman extraordinaire Jimmy Rane, according to new rankings from Forbes Magazine.
As a declining coal market cut into the riches of Drummond, whose net worth hovered around an estimated $600 million for several years, Forbes updated the list with Rane along with a few other changes .
The founder of Abbeville-based building materials company Great Southern Wood Preserving, Rane is better known as Yella Fella, the cowboy alter-ego he plays in TV commercials. He got into the lumber business by accident. In 1970, as a law student, Rane stepped in to mediate a family dispute over his father-in-law’s estate and ended up taking control of a small fence post manufacturer. He expanded the company on the side while he ran a private practice and spent five years as a county judge. Eventually Rane shifted his focus to Great Southern Wood, where he remains chairman and CEO. Today the company hauls in more than $700 million of revenue a year, and Rane is personally worth an estimated $610 million. He might have the biggest fortune in Alabama, but Rane is still $1.1 billion shy of making the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans.
Rane gained national notoriety for his comical series of commercials for his treated lumber brand Yellawood several years ago, where he played the character of the “Yella Fella.”
Off the screen, the “Yella Fella” is an ardent Auburn fan who sits on the university’s Board of Trustees, and holds a charity golf tournament every year, which is attended by dozens of professional athletes and sports personalities.
The Jimmy Rane Foundation was established in 2000, and has since provided millions in scholarships to hundreds of deserving recipients who go through a meticulous application process.
“Work hard. Give back. It’s a really simple idea,” says the foundation’s website. “And yet, the Jimmy Rane Foundation has proven that it really works.”