Fifty-three years after he first founded the company, James Avery officially stepped down as CEO in May 2007 and passed the reins to his son Chris. He is still involved with the company and many days you can find him pursuing what he loves -- creating new design ideas out of his office at the corporate headquarters in Kerrville.
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and raised in the Chicago area, James Avery was first introduced to the scenic Texas Hill Country, by way of the U.S. Air Corps. Cadet Avery landed in San Antonio where he was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base. Here he found inspiring surroundings and a “can do” attitude in the people.
James completed pilot training and commanded a B-26 bomber, surviving 44 missions over Germany. After World War II, he attended the University of Illinois and received a B.F.A. in Industrial Design. He pursued college level teaching, and while at the University of Colorado, he explored jewelry-making techniques with his students. In 1950, he thought about leaving the teaching profession. It was also about this time that he returned to the church after years of being a defensive agnostic.
“My renewed Christian commitment, along with my new decision to leave teaching, led to a new direction in my life. This is the reason so much of my work is Christian symbolism.”
In 1954, James spent the summer in Kerrville, Texas along with his wife, visiting his in-laws. “It was during this time that I decided to go into business.”
“I worked alone for three years. Ideas, plenty of hard work and prayers (not necessarily in that order) were the rule of each day.” Word spread and people found their way to the craftsman in the hills. Each one who came would be greeted personally and with cordial gratitude. It was in this setting that strong and lasting customer bonds developed, those on which this company would grow and build upon for over half a century.
The future looks promising for James Avery. Now with sons Chris and Paul aboard as CEO/President and Executive Vice-President, the company is in good hands with another 50 years to look forward to. One man’s dream has ignited the passion of an extended team carrying a product, a set of values, and a commitment to doing all things well across our land.