Franchisee John Q. Hammons, Hotel Pioneer, Dies

Franchisee John Q Hammons, hotel pioneer

American hotel pioneer John Q. Hammons (pictured) died Sunday in Springfield, Mo., age 94. Photo/BusinessWire

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. ̶ One of America's great hotel pioneers, franchisee John Q. Hammons, died peacefully on Sunday at Elfindale Manor retirement community in Springfield, Missouri. He was 94.

In his 52-year career in the lodging industry, Mr. Hammons developed 210 hotel properties in 40 states. He introduced the hospitality industry and pushed franchisors to support 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 throughout the Midwest and smaller, secondary markets.

In his book Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry, author Stanley Turkel devoted a chapter to franchisee Hammons. "If you don't know who he is, you are missing one of the great hoteliers of our time," he wrote. "I stand in awe of the Hammons organization," the New York-based hotel consultant continued.

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, Missouri.

Developer

Following his service in the military, where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant JG (junior grade), Mr. Hammons recognized that G.I.s returning from World War II would want quality housing 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 ten 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 the company into what is now: 78 hotels with nearly 19,000 guest rooms/suites and 5.4 million gross square feet of meeting and convention space in 24 states. It employs more than 8,500 associates. Mr. Hammons put his signature touch on enhancing hotel franchises, 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, Missouri.

"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."

Giver

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, the Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts at Missouri State University and the Hammons School of Architecture at Drury University. Mr. Hammons also donated $30 million to Missouri State University to build the JQH Arena, which opened in 2008.

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.

Don Sniegowski