SPRINGFIELD, Mo.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--One of America’s most esteemed hotel developers, John Q. Hammons, died peacefully today at age 94 at Elfindale Manor in Springfield, Mo., where he had resided since 2010. The Missouri native and long-time Springfield businessman, whose greatest passions were hotel development and sports, remained active in business until the age of 91. Over the course of his impressive 52-year career in the lodging industry, Mr. Hammons developed 210 hotel properties in 40 states and was honored with numerous lifetime achievement awards. He introduced the hospitality industry to signature-style, full-service hotels featuring atrium lobbies, expansive meeting and convention space, large guest rooms, podium check-in stations, and complete business traveler amenities that have become staples in a guest’s exceptional experience.
Mr. Hammons grew up in Fairview, Mo., near Joplin, during the Great Depression. He earned his degree from Southwest Missouri State Teachers College (now Missouri State University/MSU) in nearby Springfield and began his professional career as a junior high school teacher and basketball coach in Cassville, Mo. Widely known as an advocate of education, Mr. Hammons holds honorary doctorate degrees from MSU, Drury University and Northwood University.
Passion for Building
Following his service in the U.S. military, where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant JG (junior grade), Mr. Hammons recognized that G.I.s returning from World War II would need quality housing in which to raise their families. He began building the first suburban housing in Springfield in the late 1940s and went on to be successful in a number of real estate ventures, including housing tracts, apartment complexes and shopping centers. He entered the hotel industry in 1958 and joined with Roy E. Winegardner to purchase their first 10 Holiday Inn franchises from founder Kemmons Wilson. Winegardner & Hammons Incorporated (WHI) of Cincinnati, a hotel development company, was formed in 1961. By the late 1960s, WHI had constructed nearly three dozen Holiday Inn hotels.
Mr. Hammons formed John Q. Hammons Hotels in 1969 and built it into the largest private, independent owner and manager of upscale hotels in the United States. Today the company operates 78 hotels/nearly 19,000 guest rooms/suites and 5.4 million gross square feet of meeting and convention space in 24 states, and employs more than 8,500 exceptional associates. Mr. Hammons put his signature touch on enhancing hotel brands, such as Embassy Suites Hotels, Marriott and Renaissance. He also developed independent hotel gems, including Chateau on the Lake Resort, Spa & Convention Center in Branson, Mo. His legacy for excellence secured the ranking of the #1 Embassy Suites Hotel in the world for six consecutive years.
“Hammons was a giant in the hospitality industry and was unwavering in his commitment to exceptional quality and service and to giving back to the community,” said Jacqueline Dowdy, CEO of John Q Hammons Hotels & Resorts. “He was a great mentor and friend and will be missed by all who came to know him, but his legacy will live on forever.”
Legacy for Giving
Mr. Hammons and his wife, Juanita, were active in the Springfield community, where he reinforced his deep passion for sports, love of the arts, and support of education and healthcare. He has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to the city of Springfield and other organizations over the last five decades. Some of his most notable philanthropic efforts include: the funding of the Hammons Heart Institute and Hammons Life Line helicopter for St. John’s Regional Health Center in Springfield; the Hammons Student Center, Hammons Fountains, and Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts at Missouri State University; the Hammons School of Architecture at Drury University; Missouri Sports Hall of Fame; Kansas Sports Hall of Fame; LPGA sponsorships in Arkansas and Oklahoma; Nationwide Tournament sponsorship in Springfield at Highland Springs Country Club; and Hammons Field, an award-winning, 10,000-seat Double-A Minor League baseball stadium, which is home to the St. Louis Cardinals’ Double-A Minor League team, the Springfield Cardinals. Mr. Hammons also donated $30 million to Missouri State University to build the JQH Arena, which opened in 2008.
Known As “John Q.”
Although his proper first name is James, Mr. Hammons originally used the name “John Q.” when he introduced himself to city leaders or organizations as a way to convey the message that he was there representing the general public and progress. The name stuck, and he forever became known as John Q. Hammons.
Mr. John Q. Hammons 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.
Details for a public event celebrating Mr. Hammons’ life and legacy will be announced soon. Donations in lieu of gifts should be made to The Cleveland Clinic Foundation and mailed to P.O. Box 931517, Cleveland, OH 44193-1655.