It’s all about opportunity: A conversation with Greenville businessman & philanthropist Stewart Spinks

May 16, 2022

For Stewart Spinks, it’s all about opportunity.

When he went to work for Shell Oil Company in 1968, he didn’t know that he would come to own a chain of 80 Spinx gas stations and convenience stores that, this year, will have its 50th anniversary.

It happened because someone saw promise in him.

Spinks started out representing Shell to 15 independent service stations which served as “little laboratories.” After learning a lot about business from them, he decided it was time to go into business himself. In 1972, he partnered with Joe Foster—a former client who knew Spinks had potential. “Joe saw something in me,” he recalled. “He saw an opportunity and pitched in with me, and we’ve been very successful together.”

Butler football Captains Stewart, Wayne Pulliam, Tony Reese.

As he became more successful, Spinks has been able to support initiatives that will help his community thrive – and educational projects like the Judson School have long been one of the areas he is proud to support.

He first became interested in Palmetto Promise Institute due to the involvement of Ellen Weaver and Senator Jim DeMint, both of whom he knew to do good work. Then, his son Steve told him about the Artis Ware Center. The addition of Tim Scott with work he cared so much about “really resonated with me,” he said.

“Creating opportunities for people is really what I believe is my biggest mission right now in life—helping people recognize and appreciate their talents,” he explained. “I invested in the Artis Ware Center because it’s consistent with my belief system around creating opportunities for people.”

Hard work and dedication to seizing opportunities is one thing Spinks says he has in common with Senator Scott—and with the many students who will benefit from the Judson School. His father worked as an automobile mechanic during the day and worked third shift as a night orderly in the local hospital while his mother worked second shift in a hotel. With his parents working 24 hours a day between their three jobs, “there’s no doubt I knew that work was an honorable thing.”

Stewart’s graduation day at University of Tennessee, with
his wife Martha, expecting first son (Steve) on 8/24/1968.

However, it took encouragement for him to realize his future could be different. “Neither one of my parents graduated high school, but they encouraged me—as did other people in my life,” he said.

Spinks turned his grades around in 10th grade when teachers saw potential and told him he could go to college despite a lack of financial resources. When his football coaches told him that, with hard work, he could get a football scholarship, he put in the work—and got the scholarship. “And that opened the door for me for a lot of things.”

Now, he wants to open doors for another generation of students who might not know what opportunities are there for them. He knows the Judson School is important because it not only will create opportunities, it will help students to seize those opportunities for themselves.

“Nobody is average,” he said. “We all have talents, and we can all learn the same way but we need to keep creating opportunities for people. We need to help students unlock their potential, and not be discouraged by a small blip in the road.”

Want to help create educational opportunities for children across South Carolina? Visit http://www. to learn more and support the work of the Artis Ware Center!