Josiah "Jo" Robins Bonner Jr.
The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 2021.
Josiah “Jo” Robins Bonner Jr. represented southwest Alabama in the U.S. House of Representatives for more than a decade. First elected to the 108th U.S. Congress in November 2002, he was successfully reelected to serve five additional terms. Considered a respected and influential voice of reason, 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 Speaker John Boehner to serve as Ethics chairman during the 112th U.S. Congress.
Bonner’s time in Washington dates back to a college internship with Congressman Jack Edwards. After graduating with a degree in journalism from the University of Alabama, Bonner returned to Capitol Hill as press secretary and later chief of staff to Congressman Sonny Callahan. In the summer of 2002, he parlayed his almost eighteen years of experience as a staffer into a convincing win in a crowded Republican primary. Bonner never lost an election and ran unopposed in the November 2012 general election.
He devoted a significant part of his tenure in Congress to reviving south Alabama’s economy. Bonner secured several significant economic development projects, including the construction of the multi-billion-dollar ThyssenKrupp plant in Mobile County in 2007. In 2010, he secured the award of $5 billion contracts to build twenty new ships for the U.S. Navy at Mobile’s Austal shipbuilding facility.
In 2012, Bonner’s crowning congressional accomplishment came when Airbus announced plans to build its first U.S. Final Assembly Line in Mobile. This project invested more than $1 billion in Alabama, created thousands of new aerospace industry jobs, and put Mobile on track to become the fourth largest commercial aviation city in the world.
Bonner also worked relentlessly with federal, state, and local authorities to coordinate containment and response to the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Bonner played a key leadership role in the U.S. House of Representatives by drafting and securing the passage of the RESTORE Act. As a result of this legislation, Alabama received $2.3 billion, most of which is being paid through installments between 2016 and 2033.
Bonner served as vice chancellor for economic development at the University of Alabama System from 2013 to 2018. During his final year, he also served as interim executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority. In 2018, Bonner joined Gov. Kay Ivey’s administration as chief of staff. On November 10, 2021, he was named the University of South Alabama’s fourth president.
Bonner was the 2013 recipient of the Distinguished Public Service Award, 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. Bonner serves on numerous boards around the state including the Alabama School of Math and Science, where he is chairman.
Bonner is married to the former Janée Lambert of Mobile. They have two children, Lee and Robins. Bonner’s sister, Judy, was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in 2014.