Josiah (Jo) Robins Bonner Jr.
The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 2020.
For more than a decade, Jo Bonner represented Southwest Alabama in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was first elected to the 108th Congress in November 2002 and was successfully reelected to five additional terms. Considered a respected and influential voice of reason in both Alabama and Washington, Bonner served on the powerful House Appropriations Committee as well as the House Ethics Committee. Widely admired on both sides of the aisle, Bonner was selected by then-Speaker John Boehner to serve as Ethics chairman during the 112th Congress.
Bonner’s time in Washington dates back to a college internship with Congressman Jack Edwards. After graduation, he returned to Capitol Hill as press secretary and later chief of staff to Congressman Sonny Callahan. He parlayed his almost 18-years-experience as a staffer into a convincing win in a crowded Republican primary during the summer of 2002. Bonner never lost an election and ran unopposed in the November 2012 general election.
Congressman Bonner devoted a significant amount of time turning around Southwest Alabama’s sluggish economy. The Mobile Press-Register called him “a champion for South Alabama” and he is credited with playing a major role in helping land several significant economic development projects, including the $5 billion ThyssenKrupp plant in 2007, as well as securing $5 billion in contracts in 2010 for Austal to build 20 new ships for the U.S. Navy.
His crowning Congressional accomplishment came in 2012 when Airbus announced plans to build their first U.S. Final Assembly Line in Mobile. The Airbus project has resulted in more than $1 billion being invested in Alabama, creating thousands of new jobs in the aerospace industry and putting Mobile on track to become the fourth largest commercial aviation city in the world.
Bonner served as Vice Chancellor for Economic Development at The University of Alabama System from 2013 to 2018 where, during his final year, he also served as Interim Executive Director of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority.
Bonner is currently chief of staff to Governor Kay Ivey. According to the news publication, Yellowhammer, Governor Ivey’s chief of staff “is by and far the most impactful non-elected official in state government... Bonner has been the epitome of a statesman” throughout his career and, today, his “contributions to the state’s current historic success might be behind the scenes but they are well recognized by those in the know.”
Bonner is the recipient of the Distinguished Public Service Award in 2013, the highest honor the U.S. Navy bestows on a civilian. In 2016, the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) created the inaugural “Congressman Jo Bonner Spirit of Leadership Award” and honored him as its first recipient. He also received BCA’s “Governor Bob Riley Building a Better Alabama Award” in 2012. That same year, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from The University of South Alabama for distinguished public service. He serves on numerous boards around the state including the Alabama School of Math and Science, where he is chairman.
Bonner earned a degree in Journalism from The University of Alabama in 1982. He is married to the former Janée Lambert, of Mobile, and they are parents of a daughter, Lee, age 25, and a son, Robins, age 22. His sister, Judy, is a 2014 inductee in the Academy.