From off-brand shoes to rejection to making the right connections, the past 30 years of Hozay Hausley’s life have come with their milestone moments. With the latest one, however, the Amory native and Aberdeen Renasant Bank president is trying to downplay it, as big of an honor as being named one of Mississippi’s top 25 most influential African-Americans is.
“I was literally speechless when I got the call,” said Hausley, who is known for a bubbly personality and rarely being short of words. “It’s a huge honor, and I’m humbled but I’m still hungry. There’s more in life, and each day is a new opportunity. It still feels like a dream.”
The honor is through Our Mississippi magazine, and the remainder of the list includes three Mississippi college and university presidents, a federal judge, businessmen, writers, politicians and the director of the Mississippi Highway Patrol, among others.
“This is God’s doing and His plan, and I have to acknowledge this God thing is His doing,” he said. “I want people to say, ‘This guy has so much positive energy, there needs to be an energy drink named after him.’ As far as my legacy, I want to be remembered by my positive energy, my servanthood, my smile and always letting people know it’s going to get better.”
From then to now
Hausley grew up in an underprivileged single-parent household, which in his adult years sparked his foundation, Hausley Inspirations. It serves underprivileged youth through mentorships, speaking engagements and holiday drives.
“Our main concern is encouraging people and letting them know the importance of education. We try to do all these things to let them know someone cares and is concerned. Our thing is, ‘How can we inspire them to make a little dream be a big dream?’ We try to reach kids who people don’t think will be anything in life,” he said.
When he was 13, his mother bought him a pair of shoes from Walmart after he asked for a pair of Air Jordans. Those shoes had a deeper meaning that still resonates to this day.
“She looked me in the eye and said, ‘If I could, I would get them, but I’m on a fixed income. But speaking of shoes, I found some at Walmart Discount Store. They’re called Winner’s Choice.’ She said, ‘I’m getting them not so you can run or play basketball. I want you to take these shoes and not just wear them on your feet but in your heart because deep down, you’re a winner,’” he said.
Three years later, he tried out for the varsity basketball team but was told by the coach he wasn’t good enough to make the cut, which crushed his spirit.
“She said, ‘Welcome to the real world. Are you going to let that coach tell you you’re not good enough or are you going to work hard and prove him wrong?’
“Not being good enough isn’t based off your last name, your shoes or what your friends’ parents drive. Not being good enough is when you don’t try,” Hausley said.
He kept practicing and soon enough proved the coach wrong and made the team. Those lessons in life make him want to keep pushing harder, especially with his place on the top 25 list.
“I’m 43 years old, and it makes me feel like, ‘Okay, Hozay, however you want to fly in life, this is the ticket; you’re on the right path. Keep on the right path,’” he said.
Putting Monroe on the map
Being named to the Jackson-heavy list of influential African-Americans, he sees the honor as also highlighting Monroe County.
“I hope this is a proud moment for the county that our own son is being put in this category. It speaks volumes for the community and county you serve in. It doesn’t matter how small you are, you can reach your goals,” he said. “I’m so excited to be a Monroe County resident. Aberdeen and Amory are so compatible. Just to have Renasant Bank be named the best bank in Monroe County [through the Monroe Journal’s Reader’s Choice awards] is exciting.”
Living in Amory and working in Aberdeen for the past 18 years at Renasant Bank, Hausley feels at home both places.
His work home came to be from a connection he made while volunteering at Amory’s Stars Over Mississippi after graduating from the Mississippi University from Women.
“I got to chauffer one of [Stars Over Mississippi founder] Sam [Haskell’s] agents and met a man named H.L. Robinson. He asked what I was doing with myself, and I said I was looking for a job and asked him if I could give him a resume,” he said.
In seeking a job later, Hausley applied for a position at People’s Bank in Tupelo, which is now Renasant Bank. Coincidentally, he took the stairs instead of the elevator after dropping off his application and ran across Robinson on the stairwell.
“He was an executive for the bank but is retired now but he asked them to give me an opportunity. I took that and made it a career,” Hausley said. “I think Robin McGraw, Mitch Waycaster, Scott Cochran and the board of directors for giving me a try.”
In his Aberdeen office, an 18-year-old ficus tree towers over his desk, growing towards a skylight. As with other moments in his life, it, too, comes with an inspirational story.
He noticed the dying plant on his way to his lunch break one day and asked the co-worker who threw it out if he could have it, saying he believed he could make it live again.
After planting it with fresh soil in a new pot, he talked to it and nurtured it to ultimately thrive.
“This plant is a symbol of Aberdeen. When they put me in the Aberdeen market, it wasn’t the number one market in the state. I’m in a place where I’m planted that I can help grow,” he said. “As our bank grows in Aberdeen, it means we’re growing here in Aberdeen. Now we’re a living example to where it may look like a dead situation but you can grow. We want to get bigger, so get ready, Aberdeen, you’re on the verge of growing, not just here but also with Monroe County.”
Hausley will be honored at a gala Aug. 23 in Jackson where the state’s most influential African-American will be named.