J.R. Hankins was born on December 26, 1954, and grew up in Black Rock, Arkansas. His law enforcement career began at the Walnut Ridge Police Department in the spring of 1974. Two years later he joined the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department where he worked as both a deputy and criminal investigator. On February 12, 1979, he obtained employment with the Arkansas State Police and was a member of recruit class 79-A. His initial assignment was in Troop A (Little Rock). J.R. transferred to Imboden in 1984 and was promoted to post sergeant in 1995 during his tenure at Troop B (Newport). In 1999, he was promoted to lieutenant and assumed his position as the assistant troop commander of Troop C in Jonesboro. In 2004, J.R. was promoted to the rank of captain, and became the troop commander of Troop J (Clarksville) for the next six years. In 2010, J.R. was promoted to the rank of major and became the Highway Patrol Commander over the Eastern District of Arkansas. He remained in this capacity until his retirement from the ASP in early 2014.
J.R. returned to the Arkansas State Police a short time later and became the manager of the ASP electronic-crash reporting program. He was tasked with establishing and promoting the new crash reporting system to local law enforcement agencies throughout the state of Arkansas.
In the summer of 2019, Department of Public Safety Director Jami Cook asked J.R. to accept the position of DPS Chief of Staff, a role that he continues to occupy. He is a 2007 graduate of the National FBI Academy and a member of the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement.
On August 03, 2022, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson appointed J.R. as the newest Director of the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training.
J.R. and his wife, Debbie, have one son, Rick, of Dallas, Texas, and two grandsons, James, and Corbin.