John Q. Hammons (born James Quentin Hammons on February 24, 1919; died May 26, 2013) was an American businessman and one of the nation’s premier developers of upscale luxury hotels and resorts. With over 50 years of experience in the hotel industry, John Q. Hammons has built and developed nearly two hundred (200) hotels. While many of the early hotels were Holiday Inns, today’s portfolio of hotels include Marriott brands (Renaissance, Courtyard by Marriott, and Residence Inn by Marriott), Hilton brands (Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, and Homewood Suites), and several independent properties including those named University Plazas and the award-winning Chateau on the Lake Resort and Conference Center in Branson, Missouri. He avoided big-city locations in favor of properties in college towns and state capitals. Hammons once said, “The kids will always go to school, and you can’t fire the politicians.”
John Q. Hammons grew up in Fairview, Missouri, attended Fairview Elementary School and graduated in 1937 from Fairview High School. He was one of 12 graduating students that year. Immediately following high school, Hammons attended Monett Junior College (which ceased operations in the 1950s and was part of Monett High School) and Southwest Missouri State Teacher’s College (now known as Missouri State University) where he received his teaching certificate in 1939.
Upon graduating in 1939 with a teacher’s certificate from Southwest Missouri State Teacher’s College, Mr. Hammons began teaching science, history, and physical education to junior high school students in Cassville, Missouri. His teacher’s salary for the first year was $40 per month and was raised to $45 per month in the second year. During this time, he served as a Cub Scout Cubmaster and the junior high school basketball coach.
The entry of the United States in World War Two, following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, forever changed history and Mr. Hammons’s life. In early 1942, John Q. Hammons left the academic world and joined the Lytle Green Construction Company of Des Moines, Iowa to work as a cost accountant on the Alaska-Canadian Highway project which was also known as the ALCAN Highway and nicknamed the Road to Tokyo. This was to be Mr. Hammons’s first experience in the construction industry and one which would shape his future. During his time in Alaska, Hammons saved every penny he earned and invested in the stock market. Upon completion of the highway and his return from Alaska, Hammons had managed to amass nearly $60,000 in savings. From 1943 to the end of the war, John Q. Hammons served in the Merchant Marines on a supply ship supporting troops in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of war. When the war ended, he had achieved the rank of Lieutenant JG (junior grade).
In the late 1940s, Hammons began building suburban housing in Springfield, Missouri, and established a number of real estate ventures, including housing tracts, apartment complexes, and shopping centers. In 1958, he began his career in the lodging industry by co-purchasing with Roy E. Winegardner their first ten Holiday Inn franchises. In 1961, they formed Winegardner & Hammons Incorporated (WHI), a hotel development company based in Cincinnati, Ohio. By the end of the 1960s, WHI constructed nearly three dozen Holiday Inn hotels, prompting Hammons to form John Q. Hammons Hotels and Resorts in 1969.
Mr. Hammons’s interest and fondness for sports began during his childhood years. He played basketball, which was to become one of his life’s passions, during all four years of high school. At approximately 5’9″ in height, Hammons was not particularly tall, but he could shoot the ball extremely well and was usually the high scorer. He continued his interest in basketball during his teaching years as a junior high school basketball coach. In two years of coaching, his team lost only one game in the first year and went on to be undefeated in the second year. He also played several years on the baseball team during high school and developed a passion for another sport in which he would play a key role in later years.
His passion for baseball culminated in the construction of one of the nation’s premier minor-league baseball parks in Springfield, Missouri. At a cost of $32M, Hammons Field opened in April 2004 and is a first-class, state of the art stadium, and serves as home for the Springfield Cardinals. The Springfield Cardinals are a Double A affiliate team of the St. Louis Cardinals and play in the Texas League. In 2006, Mr. Hammons helped fund the 11,000-seat JQH Arena for basketball and special events on the Missouri State University campus.
In 2011 his net worth was estimated at more than $1 billion. He has no children and his wife is in an institution with Alzheimer’s Disease. Both Hammons and his wife are at The Manor at Elfindale in Springfield. On May 11, 2011, the Springfield News-Leader reported that Greene County Probate Judge Michael Cordonnier had appointed Dr. James Coulter as Hammons’ temporary guardian.
John Q. Hammons died on May 26, 2013, aged 94, at Elfindale Manor in Springfield, Missouri, where he had resided since 2010. He was preceded in death by his parents, James O. and Hortense Bass Hammons, and his sister, Wrenna Quentilla Hammons. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Juanita K. Hammons, of Springfield.
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