Biography of William Jackson Jenks

William Jackson Jenks, born March 21, 1870, in Wake County, North Carolina, is a prominent figure in the Norfolk and Western Railway Company, where he currently serves as chairman of the board of directors. Jenks began his career with the company in 1886 as a telegraph operator, advancing through various roles including train dispatcher, superintendent, and general manager. He served as vice-president in charge of operation from 1924 to 1936, then as president for a decade before becoming chairman in 1946. Jenks is also a director of several other companies and organizations and is a member of various clubs and societies in Roanoke, Virginia. He married Sallie C. Baldwin in 1891, and they have one daughter, Virginia Kyle Woods.

William Jackson Jenks
William Jackson Jenks

In many different capacities William Jackson Jenks has served the Norfolk and Western Railway Company, of which he is now chairman of the board of directors. He has his headquarters in Roanoke, where he resides. Formerly he was the company’s president.

Mr. Jenks was born March 21, 1870, in Wake County, North Carolina, son of William S. and Retta (Baucom) Jenks. His father was engaged in farming operations over a period of many years.

William Jackson Jenks attended both public and private schools, and began his work with the Norfolk and Western system as a telegraph operator in 1886. He later became agent, as well as telegraph operator, then was train dispatcher and chief dispatcher, continuing in those positions until 1901. For seven years, until 1908, he was trainmaster and superintendent of the Seaboard Air Line Railway. In 1908 he became associated with the Norfolk and Western Railway Company again, acting until 1912 as chairman of the car allotment commission. From 1912 to 1918 he was superintendent and general superintendent of the system, becoming general manager of the road at the conclusion of that period and so continuing until 1924. He was then vice-president in charge of operation for twelve years, from 1924 to 1936, after which he was president of the company for a decade. He was made chairman of the board in 1946.

Among his other duties with the Norfolk and Western, Mr. Jenks has held a directorship over a long period of years. He is a director of the First National Exchange Bank, of Roanoke; the Pennsylvania Company for Banking and Trusts, in Philadelphia; the Virginia Holding Corporation, Roanoke; the Pocahontas Land Corporation, Roanoke; the Pocahontas Coal and Coke Company, Roanoke; the Winston-Salem Southbound Railway, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; the Winston-Salem Terminal Company, Winston-Salem; the Norfolk and Portsmouth Belt Line Railroad, Norfolk; and the Norfolk Terminal Company, Norfolk. In numerous ways Mr. Jenks has been honored by his associates. Some years ago he was one of seven railroad presidents appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to serve temporarily as colonels in the army at the time of a threatened railroad strike. Mr. Jenks is a member of the Rotary Club, the Shenandoah Club and the Roanoke Country Club, in Roanoke, and formerly he was president of Rotary. He also belongs to The Newcomen Society of England in North America. He is a member of the Episcopal Church.

William Jackson Jenks married, in 1891, in Bluefield, West Virginia, Sallie C. Baldwin, born in Tazewell, Virginia, daughter of Denison and Sallie (Barnes) Baldwin. They became the parents of a daughter, Virginia Kyle, who married P. D. Woods; and they have a son, Jackson Jenks Woods.


Couper, Wm. (William), History of the Shenandoah Valley, Family and Personal Records, vol. III, New York, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1952.

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