Rex Haynes, a longtime insurance executive, community and church leader, died Thursday at North Delta Hospice in Southaven after a long battle with cancer. He was 66.

Haynes, owner of SouthGroup Insurance, is a former volunteer firefighter who in the late 1990s and early 2000s, oversaw the establishment of the $40 million DeSoto Civic Center.

Haynes, a Horn Lake resident, was also instrumental in passage of the $115 million school bond issue in 2005, the largest in Mississippi history.

Haynes, a native of Crenshaw, was an insurance company executive for more than 43 years.

Haynes joined Brown & Stevens Insurance Company, which began in Horn Lake in 1961, later renamed Brown & Haynes, in 1973 as the company's first full-time employee.

Haynes was hired by the late Winn Brown, the former mayor of Horn Lake, who was also captain of the city's fire department. The two later became business partners.

Haynes attended Memphis State University and majored in finance and insurance. Haynes enlisted in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam war era and worked at the Hartford Insurance firm for about six months before he had the offer to come to Horn Lake.

His business partner, Sarah Edmiston, joined the company in 1985.

"He was a fine Christian man who would do anything for anybody," Edmiston said when reached Friday. "He was very well respected. I worked with him for 32 years. He was more of a brother to me. He made me what I am."

Haynes' willingness to help with local causes took center stage when Haynes was named chairman of the DeSoto Civic Center Committee, which was tasked with spearheading the establishment and construction of a countywide community center.

At the time, there was no such facility large enough to hold high school graduations, concerts or large-scale indoor sporting events.

The result was a $40 million facility that has been rechristened as Landers Center.

Haynes was also willing to assist with community issues such as the need for a bond issue which helped to fund new classroom and school facilities across DeSoto County.

"I never knew anyone who wanted to do what was right more than Rex Haynes," said former DeSoto County Superintendent of Education Milton Kuykendall, adding that Haynes was campaign chairman for two school bond issues. "I knew Rex as a personal friend, in business and in politics and as a parent. In every respect, he was a Christian man. I was always impressed with the fact he wanted to do what was right. He always wanted to do the ethical thing."

Visitation for Haynes is from 2 until 6 p.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church in Horn Lake. A funeral service is planned for 2 p.m. Sunday at First Baptist Church in Horn Lake. There will be no graveside service. Pate-Jones Funeral Home of Senatobia has charge.

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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