The James Gordon Hanes Chair for the Humanities was established in 1961 through a gift from University alumnus and prominent businessman James Hanes. The professorship was designated as the James Gordon Hanes Chair in the Humanities, but the name can be changed because the terms of the endowment are sufficiently broad as to permit assigning it within other academic areas of the University.

Born in Winston-Salem in 1886, Hanes was the son of John Wesley and Anna Hodgin Hanes, in whose memory the John and Anna Hanes Foundation was established. The Hanes family was widely known for its interests in manufacturing, business, politics, civic and religious affairs. James Hanes was the founder, president and chairman of the Board of the Hanes Hosiery Co. and its successor, Hanes Corp. Four of his five brothers also attended the University.

After graduating from the University with a B.A. in 1909, Hanes returned to Winston-Salem and took over his father’s textile business, which he soon converted into the Hanes Hosiery Co. When he retired in 1954, Hanes Corp. had become the world’s largest manufacturer of women’s seamless nylon hosiery.

Hanes was director of Wachovia Bank & Trust Co., Norfolk & Western Railway Co., the Savoy Plaza Hotel in New York City, the Business Foundation of North Carolina, the John and Mary Markle Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. He also was an alderman and mayor of Winston-Salem, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners of Forsyth County, a member of the War Labor Board and a trustee of the Methodist Children’s Home and Woodberry Forest School in Virginia. In 1963, the University awarded him an honorary law degree.

Hanes was married to the former Emmie Drewry, with whom he had one son, J. Gordon Hanes Jr. After Emmie’s death, he married the former Mary (Molly) W. Ruffin, who died in 1957. Hanes died in 1972.

James Gordon Hanes Professors:
2010 – Present: Patrick O’Neill
2002 – Present: Brooks de Wetter-Smith
1994 – 2008: William Harmon (emeritus)