John Houston Hankins was named for his grandfathers, John Emerson Goodloe and Houston G. Hankins. He was born in Hopkins County, Kentucky, on 24 August, probably in 1856, the first of Albert Elvie Hankins and Isabella Jane Goodloe’s four children. Albert died when John and his siblings were children.
John married Martha Elizabeth “Mattie” Clements on 20 November 1879 in Hopkins County. Mattie, daughter of James A. Clements and Mary Jane Christian, was born in April 1859 in Tennessee. Her nephew, Henry Thomas Clements, married John’s sister, Mollie.
In 1880, John and Mattie lived in the Fisherspring District in Hopkins County. Mattie’s mother lived with them.
John and Mattie had three sons and two daughters. Thomas was born in October 1880, probably in Hopkins County. Julia, who went by Jackie, was born on 3 May 1882 in Providence in Webster County, Kentucky. Hustler was born about 1891 and died on 28 February 1897 of measles and whooping cough. Georgia was born on 16 February 1893. Goldie was born in August 1895. The three youngest children were born in either Hopkins or Webster County.
John served as a deputy during part of R. B. Tapp’s term as Hopkins County Sheriff, which ran from January 1891 to January 1895. Prior to that, John was the constable for the Dalton district for several years. Sheriff Will Thompson named John his chief deputy when he took office in January 1895 and John served in that position for Thompson’s three-year term.
In early February 1897, John announced his candidacy for sheriff in that year’s election. An article in The Hustler described him as well and favorably known to most of the county voters and well qualified to discharge the duties of the office. John won the Democratic primary in August, defeating seven other candidates. He received 787 votes and his nearest competitor received 654. John faced the Republican candidate, George R. Lynn, in the 2 November general election and won by a vote count of 2683 to 1938.
The family lived in the Kitchen District in Hopkins County in 1900. John was still sheriff at that time, but later bought Phoenix Mills in Providence and moved there. The mill manufactured high-grade flour and feed of all kinds.
John died of smallpox on 10 June 1938 in Providence. He had been in ill health for some time and was hospitalized in Evansville, Indiana, several weeks before contracting smallpox. He was buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery in Madisonville in Hopkins County.
Mattie also contracted smallpox in June 1938, but she survived it. Mattie married Jesse DePriest on 12 September 1939 in Webster County. He died on 5 January 1940. Mattie then married Henry Shade on 26 August 1940 in Webster County. Mattie died on 26 December 1945 at her home in Providence. She was buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery in Madisonville.