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Craft graduated high school in 1968, majored in accounting at the University of Kentucky, then spent a year at an accounting firm. He then attended law school at the University of Kentucky. He holds a bachelor of science degree in accounting and a Juris Doctor from the University of Kentucky. Craft is also a graduate of the Senior Executive Program of the Alfred P. Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Craft moved to Oklahoma in 1980 where he joined MAPCO Inc. and expanded his business endeavors to some of the nation's most productive coal fields, nearby Tulsa. In 1986, Craft became president of MAPCO's Coal segment, a position he held for 10 years before leading a management buyout of the company's coal operations.
Craft is president, chief executive officer and a director of Alliance Resource Partners L.P. (ARLP), the coal industry's first publicly traded master limited partnership, formed in 1999. ARLP, the ninth-largest coal producer in the United States, is headquartered in Tulsa with support offices in Kentucky.
Craft is also president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Tulsa-based Alliance Holdings GP, L.P., a publicly traded limited partnership that owns the general partnership interests of ARLP.
Under Craft's leadership, ARLP was recognized by BusinessWeek magazine as the 14th hottest growth company in the United States in 2007, and made the annual list of "100 Hot Growth Companies" for the fifth consecutive year.
Craft has served in various industry leadership positions and is currently serving as a member of the Board of Trustees for The University of Tulsa, a director for Bank of Oklahoma, and Tulsa Community Foundation.
He was inducted into the City of Tulsa Hall of Fame in 2007; and in June 2008, Ernst & Young recognized Craft as Entrepreneur of the Year for the Southwest Region in the Energy, Chemical and Mining category.
The Joe Craft Center, a state-of-the-art basketball practice facility for the Kentucky Wildcats men's and women's basketball teams was named for him after he pledged $6 million toward the completion of the project. This was the largest private gift in the history of UK Athletics.
- The University of Tulsa, Collins College of Business - 2008 Outstanding Business Leader
- 2007 City of Tulsa Oklahoma - Hall of Fame
- Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the Southwest Region energy, chemical, and mining category
- "The face of coal: Joe Craft to speak on culture, importance of resource in Kentucky". The Kentucky Kernel. 4 November 2009. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
- http://www.utulsa.edu/academics/colleges/Collins-College-of-Business/About-the-College/Business-Hall-of-Fame/Joseph-W-Craft-III.aspx%7Caccessdate 20 July 2012
- http://www.arlp.com/about/leadership-team.htm#craft%7Caccessdate 20 July 2012
- http://www.ukalumni.net/s/1052/index-no-right.aspx?sid=1052&gid=1&pgid=1482%7Caccessdate 20 July 2012
- http://www.ukathletics.com/index.php?s=&url_channel_id=37&url_article_id=18184&change_well_id=2%7Caccessdate 20 July 2012
- http://eoyhof.ey.com/MemberProfile.aspx%7Caccessdate 20 July 2012
- "Pro-Romney ‘Super PAC’ Spent $14 Million in January". The New York Times. 20 February 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2012.