William Bennett Tackett (1925 – 2012)
Heartland Catfish Company was founded in 1995 by William Tackett, his son, Jim Tackett, and son-in-law, Joe Walker. Yet the foundation for the success of the company began decades before, when William Tackett, at the age of 6, began his first job for one penny per day. In the years that followed, William developed his hard work ethic, dedication, integrity, determination and Christian principles that allowed him to guide the development and success of one of the largest vertically integrated entities in the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish industry today.
William and his wife, Marue, began farming in 1948 in Arkansas. In 1964, Mr. Tackett and his family moved to Belzoni in the Mississippi Delta to farm rice, soybeans and cotton. In 1968, he built his first catfish pond in Humphreys County. The next several years saw the family move to Leflore County and Sunflower County, where they continued to farm rice, corn and soybeans, built more catfish ponds and began a catfish hatchery with brooder and fingerling operations. The farming operation grew to some 7,500 acres of water for catfish and 10,000 acres of cropland. Frustrated with the difficulties in moving that much fish to the various farmer-owned cooperative processors in the area, Mr. Tackett and Tackett Fish Farms began developing plans to process their own fish. In 1995, Heartland Catfish Company was founded. Because of the principles established by Mr. Tackett, Heartland Catfish Company grew rapidly and, in 2000, doubled the processing operation and, again, in 2008, purchased a processing facility in Greensboro, Alabama, that further increased the processing operation.
Mr. Tackett continued to work daily, both in the fish farming and processing aspects of his businesses, until his passing in 2012. It wasn’t uncommon to see him, even at 87 years old, driving a bulldozer or motor grader working on a levee or feeding fish from his one-ton feed truck to make sure they had been fed properly. He also regularly attended the Board of Directors meetings that oversaw the operations of Heartland Catfish Company.
Over the course of his career, Mr. Tackett served on the Board of Directors of Delta Pride Catfish, Delta Western Feed Mill, Catfish Farmers of America, Catfish Farmers of Mississippi, and The Catfish Institute. Mr. Tackett also received various industry awards, including 1989 Catfish Farmers of America Outstanding Farmer, 1992 Delta Council Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to Aquaculture, 2000 Lancaster/Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year, and 2006 Catfish Farmers of American Lifetime Achievement Award.
Mr. Tackett began farming in 1948 and continued his life’s passion until his death in 2012. He left a legacy of a man who lived a life of honor, integrity, frugality, determination, hard work and Christian principles. Heartland Catfish Company was founded on this legacy and continues to strive to meet the high standards set forth by our founding father.