Joe B. Hinton

Joe B. Hinton

Despite his mother’s best efforts, Joe Hinton became an international businessman. “My mother was always looking for ways to get me to move back home and work in Texas,” Joe said. “When I worked in New York, she’d call to tell me about jobs I should apply for in Texas. Each time I reminded her I was doing well in my career, I knew the oil business and I was staying in it.”

And he did for 41 years. After living and working in more than nine states, Joe eventually assumed the roles of marketing vice president of U.S. operations and president of Mobil Europe.

“Oil always interested me,” Joe said. “My dad worked for Humble Oil and Refining Company for almost 40 years, and as a youngster, I was enthralled by the whole business. By the time I graduated from A&M-Commerce with two degrees, I’d already worked five summers with Mobil, and they eagerly put me to work. Eventually, I got a taste of the international oil business, and it got even more exciting.”

Transitioning from the U.S. to London, Joe enthusiastically embraced his new role as president and the accompanying global risks to be mitigated on a daily basis. “Mondays were great,” Joe said. “I would sit down with Interpol representatives and other intelligence gathering personnel, and they would brief me on where trouble was brewing across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. You worked your way around all of this, day in and day out, always on the edge of something significant.”

Living on the edge of significance, however, often required engaging in a mountain of risk. “I worked in Eastern Europe when the Cold War was ice cold, and watched expectantly as things began to change behind the iron curtain. In Moscow, I had to be exceedingly careful during every meeting and transaction. You never knew for sure which phone was tapped, or who was watching you. It seemed everyone walked around with a machine gun on their shoulder, and leaving the country was always difficult.”

Joe’s innate ability to stare down a challenge with fearlessness and a can-do attitude rivals today’s most courageous leaders of industry, thanks in part to the most influential man in Joe’s life-his father.

“My father served in World War I, and spent the rest of his days working in the oil industry,” Joe said. “He taught me to work hard, and to take advantage of every advancement opportunity. His wisdom was a huge benefit during my formative years.”

MORE THAN A COW COLLEGE Woven through each of Joe’s accomplishments, both domestic and international, is the common thread of education. “Education paves the way to success,” Joe said. “It’s up to you to follow where it leads. Combine a college degree or two with enthusiasm and gumption, and you’ll be amazed at how far you can go.”
Joe is quick to point out that a college graduate from A&M-Commerce can be every bit as qualified for the working world as an Ivy Leaguer. “Someone told me once that as a graduate from a ‘cow college,’ I was going to have a big disadvantage in the corporate world of New York compared to my Ivy League counterparts,” Joe said. “That really captured my attention; it lit a fire under me. I realized quickly that your worth in the corporate world was measured by what you produced and how you impacted the bottom line, so I did everything I could to be successful, working 25 hours a day, eight days a week. After the first year, I fit into the crowd.”

A CULTURAL EDUCATION Joe’s education continued as he progressed from the classroom to the boardroom; with business school courses replaced with lessons in international business, and the cultural differences that accompany the intrigue and grandeur of a London office and executive title.

“I was the first American to serve in London as president of Mobil Europe,” Joe said. “Thankfully, my boss in New York had carefully coached me about cultural differences and sensitivities, and I diligently passed that knowledge on to my team. When I saw someone fall out of line due to a cultural faux pas, I confronted them immediately. There’s an education process, and if you don’t want to learn proper etiquette, you won’t last long working overseas.” Thanks to Joe’s efforts, the basis for a similar education is provided by A&M-Commerce through the international studies program, an area Joe has maintained close ties and helped sponsor. “Dr. Clinton is doing a wonderful job running international studies,” Joe said. “Students learn so much from these pro¬grams, and they return far better prepared for careers in our global environment. It’s a worthy investment that confirms that the key to success lies in a good education.”

A NOT-SO-AVERAGE RETIREMENT While Joe has technically retired and handed over the reins of Mobil Europe, his influence and expertise remain in high demand by domestic leaders in a number of areas where he served as chairman of the executive board for the Brazos River Authority, the Texas Rangers and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board as well as chairman of the McLennan County Republican Party. “I grew up hearing my grandfather’s stories about the Texas Rangers, and about his father who was a Ranger,” Joe said. “Rangers are known to be fearless. They always pay careful attention to detail, work hard and almost always get the desired result. When I had the opportunity to serve as chairman of the executive committee advisory board, I jumped at the chance.”

Joe’s active retirement has also included a six-year appointment to the Brazos River Authority board by former president George W. Bush, an opportunity full of the risk, reward and tough decision making he faced at Mobil. With every decision and each new endeavor, Joe maintains his fearless approach to life and opportunity, never afraid to make the right choice, even when it’s unpopular.

“If you see a need for positive change, act on it,” Joe said. “It’s a hard road at times, but always worthwhile. It will lead you down the path to a not-so-average life.”

And that’s the best kind of life there is for this not-so-average Joe.

(Taken from the Fall 2010 edition of the Pride Alumni Magazine)