Brother, Can You Spare A Billion? The Story of Jesse Jones  

Jones Portrait

"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 federal government.

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. Jones as a boy

 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.