Jesse H. Jones

Biography

Jesse Holman Jones, the son of a tobacco farmer, was born on 5th April, 1874. He worked on his father's farm until moving to Dallas at the age of 19, where he managed his uncle's lumberyard.

In 1898 Jones moved to Houston and started his own business, the South Texas Lumber Company. Later he began building and selling houses. In 1907 he built the ten-story Texas Company Building (Texaco) and the seven-story Bristol Hotel. Jones also constructed the Chronicle Building for the newspaper, The Houston Chronicle. This was followed by the Rice Hotel and three ten-floor office buildings in Main Street.

As well as being chairman of the Texas Trust Company Jones was also President of the National Bank of Commerce. Jones also became a leading shareholder in the Humble Oil and Refining Company and the Houston Ship Canal.

During the First World War President Woodrow Wilson persuaded Jones to become Director General for Military Relief for the American Red Cross. In this post he organized hospitals, canteens and ambulance networks throughout Europe. At the end of the war Jones helped to establish the Red Cross as a permanent worldwide relief organization.

A member of the Democratic Party, Jones became director of finance for the Democratic National Committee. In 1926 he became the sole owner of The Houston Chronicle.

In 1931 President Herbert Hoover appointed Jones to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). When Franklin D. Roosevelt took power he appointed Jones as chairman of the RFC. This became a crucial post in Roosevelt's New Deal policies and Jones had the responsibility of directing billions of dollars to help support American industry. Such was his power that Jones was described as a "fourth branch of government".

Jones worked closely with John Nance Garner. The men were both right-wing conservatives and did not always approve of Roosevelt's more progressive policies. However, Jones helped to finance many public works programs. Jones also took control of the Federal Loan Agency, the Federal Housing Authority and the Home Owners Loan Corporation.

In 1940 Jones became Secretary of Commerce. However, he retained his post as Federal Loan Administrator. Congress granted Jones and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation the power to distribute funds in order to prepare for war. This included the creation of the Defense Plant Corporation and the Defense Supplies Corporation. During the Second World War Jones was responsible for the spending of 20 billion dollars.

In January 1944 Franklin D. Roosevelt became suspicious of Jones activities and replaced him with the more left-wing Henry Wallace. Jones now returned to Houston where he became a key member of the Suite 8F Group. The name came from the room in the Lamar Hotel in Houston where they held their meetings. Members of the group included Lyndon B. Johnson, George Brown and Herman Brown (Brown & Root), Gus Wortham (American General Insurance Company), James Abercrombie (Cameron Iron Works), William Hobby (Governor of Texas), William Vinson (Great Southern Life Insurance), James Elkins (American General Insurance and Pure Oil Pipe Line) and John Connally (Governor of Texas). Alvin Wirtz and Edward Clark, were also members of the Suite 8F Group.

Jesse Holman Jones died on 1st June, 1956.

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