John H. Jenkins was born on March 22, 1940, in Beaumont, Texas, son of John Holmes and Sue Chalmers Jenkins. He was an Eagle Scout, and was involved in numerous social and civic activities. Above all he identified with his Texas ancestry--he was a sixth generation Texan.
During his high school years he spend summers in Bastrop with his grandparents, researching, compiling, and editing the memoirs of his great-great grandfather, John Holland Jenkins, an early Bastrop County pioneer. Recollections of Early Texas, published by the University of Texas Press, was released on the day Jenkins graduated from high school. J. Frank Dobie wrote in his introduction to the book, "Many a Ph.D. thesis shows less scholarship and less intelligence than Johnny's work and is not nearly so interesting."
As a career he chose the publishing and rare book business. Since 1963, the Pemberton Press and the Jenkins Publishing Company have published over 300 books and won numerous state and national awards, with an international reputation for high scholarship.
Jenkins was instrumental in 1971 in recovering some stolen books and national art treasures. He was cited by the F.B.I. and on the floor of Congress for bravery. His autobiographical book about this and other activities, Audubon and Other Capers, has bean cited for having a "wonderfully wicked sense of humor" (Southwest Review). In 1980 he was elected National President of the professional organization of booksellers, the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, serving until 1982.
On Christmas Eve of 1985, and over the next few days, fire and mold destroyed half a million rare books in his rare book dealership, the Jenkins Company, in Austin. (This was reported in the 1986 Abbey Newsletter, on p. 2 and 72.)
On April 16, 1989, he was killed under sudden and tragic circumstances. His wife Maureen Mooney Jenkins, who has served as a full partner in the business from its beginning in 1963, will continue to operate the company. Memorial gifts may be made to the Texas State Historical Association, Dr. Ron Tyler, Director, Austin, Texas 78713.