James French Hill (1956–)

French Hill is a U.S. congressman from Arkansas’s Second District who was first elected in 2014. He is associated with the wave of new conservatives who made up the Tea Party Movement that helped the Republicans regain the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010. Prior to running for office, he held a number of staff and appointive governmental positions and also had a successful business career. Since taking his seat in 2015, Hill has established himself as a reliable conservative vote, strongly supportive of pro-business measures and a loyal supporter of former president Donald Trump.

James French Hill was born on December 5, 1956, in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The only child of Jay French Hill and Patricia McGowan Payne Hill, he grew up in Little Rock and graduated from Catholic High School for Boys in 1975. He then went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, earning a BS in economics in 1979. In 2007, he became a certified corporate director through a University of California at Los Angeles program.

Hill served from 1982 to 1984 as an aide to John Tower of Texas, a Republican senator and chair of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. From 1989 to 1991, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Corporate Finance, a post he left to assume the role of executive secretary to President George H. W. Bush’s Economic Policy Council from 1991 to 1993. He was also a senior advisor to Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in 2008.

Meanwhile, in the private sector, he worked in different capacities for a number of organizations, including serving as a senior financial analyst for InterFirst Corporation from 1979 to 1982, when he left to work on Capitol Hill. Upon his return, he served as a director at the Mason Best Company from 1984 to 1989, when he again returned to government service. From 1993 to 1998, he was executive officer of First Commercial Corporation, a position he left to found the Delta Trust & Banking Corporation in 1999 in Little Rock. He then served as chair and chief executive officer until 2014, when Delta Trust was acquired by Simmons First National Bank.

The acquisition allowed Hill to return to government service. In 2014, he sought a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Arkansas’s Second District. The seat had become open when Congressman Tim Griffin opted to return to Arkansas and run for lieutenant governor instead of seeking another term in the House. In his first run for public office, Hill secured the Republican nomination by garnering over fifty-five percent of the vote in a multi-candidate primary and garnered 51.9 percent in the multi-candidate general election to keep the seat in Republican hands. Indeed, despite being a regular target of the Democrats, he continued win reelection, with his percentage of the vote never dropping below his 2014 level. In the 2022 election, following a Republican-controlled redistricting effort that carved heavily African American portions of Pulaski County into two other congressional districts, Hill too more than sixty percent of the vote against his Democratic opponent, Quintessa Hathaway.

Over the course of his House service, Hill has been a member of the Committee on Financial Services and its subcommittees on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship, and Capital Markets; on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy; and on Monetary Policy and Trade. He also served on the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, the Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises, the Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing, and the Terrorism and Illicit Finance Subcommittee.

Through these memberships and his other efforts, he has crafted a strongly conservative record. He supported President Trump and his agenda over ninety-five percent of the time, with major votes including support of the effort to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (popularly dubbed “Obamacare”) as well as his vote in favor of the Republican-sponsored Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Most of the legislation he has been most involved with has related to the financial industry, and he has also advocated for small businesses.

Despite his clear party loyalty and conservative credentials, on May 19, 2021, Hill was one of only thirty-five Republicans who joined the unanimous Democratic side in voting to approve legislation to establish an independent January 6 commission to investigate the storming of the U.S. Capitol. The legislation later stalled in the U.S. Senate, leading the U.S. House to establish its own select committee to investigate the attempted coup d’état.

Beyond elective office and his work in government, Hill is a member of the Arkansas chapter of the World President’s Organization (WPO), the American Alpine Club, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the National Rifle Association (NRA). Closer to home, he has served as president of the Little Rock Rotary Club and is a member of the Arkansas Territorial Restoration Commission, the board of directors of Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and the executive board of the Quapaw Area Council, Boy Scouts of America.

He and his wife, Martha McKenzie Hill, have a daughter and a son. The family lives in Little Rock.

For additional information:
Delevingne, Lawrence, and Tom Lasseter. “Slavery’s Descendants, Part 6: Heirs of Power.” Reuters, December 13, 2023. https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-slavery-families/ (accessed December 13, 2023).

Felley, Lawson. “James French Hill.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, High Profile, October 10, 1993, pp. 1D, 4D.

“French Hill.” Ballotpedia. https://ballotpedia.org/French_Hill (accessed November 16, 2021).

“Rep. French Hill.” Govtrack.us. https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/french_hill/412609 (accessed November 16, 2021).

“Representative J. French Hill.” Congress.gov. https://www.congress.gov/member/j-hill/H001072 (accessed November 16, 2021).

“U.S. Congressman French Hill, Biography.” United States House of Representatives. https://hill.house.gov/biography/ (accessed November 16, 2021).

William H. Pruden III
Ravenscroft School


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