"Success is measured by the service
you render and the character of citizen you make rather than by
the amount of money you amass." -- Jesse H. Jones
Jesse Holman Jones (1874-1956)
With only an eighth grade education and natural
business acumen, Jesse Holman Jones set off for Houston, Texas
in 1894 on a journey that would take him to the heights of wealth
and power. Jones made his mark in real estate and banking, and
transformed the city of Houston into a hub of international commerce
for the South.
Along the way, he never forgot the importance of helping others.
In World War I, he headed battlefront aid for the American Red
Cross. As head of the RFC and Secretary of Commerce, he wielded
an unprecedented amount of power over the fiscal affairs of the
During the Great Depression he bailed out the banks, railroads
and the farms. He also prepared the country for World War II,
enabling industry to build the "arsenal of democracy." The nation
has much reason to thank Jesse Jones for his service during some
of its most perilous times.
A Young Entrepreneur
Jesse Holman Jones was born in Robertson County, Tennessee on
April 5, 1874. Young Jesse's father was a tobacco farmer, and
he spent his early years on the family farm near Springfield,
Tennessee. Jones' mother died when he was six years old, leaving
his father's sister, Nancy Hurt, to act as surrogate mother. "My
father was a tobacco merchant as well as farmer.
He bought and prized tobacco for shipment abroad. I worked in
the factory. When I was 14 he started a branch factory some distance
from home and put me in charge of it. I asked father if he thought
I could do the job. He said, 'You can do it as well as I can.'
When he told me that, I believed I could," said Jones. Despite
only an elementary education, Jesse proved early on in his life
that he had a knack for business. He moved to Dallas, Texas at
the age of 19 to manage his uncle M.T. Jones' lumberyards.
After his uncle's death in 1898, he went to Houston to manage
his estate. Soon, Jesse Jones started his own lumber business,
the South Texas Lumber Company, purchased his own lumberyard and
quickly expanded it to 65 across the region. He began building
small houses, making them affordable for working families by offering
20-year mortgages, which at the time was a new concept. From this
point on, Jones identified himself as a builder.