We are happy to announce that our new exhibit, The Life and Legacy of Jesse H. Jones, is now available online! The following is a report from our Fondren Fellow Corinne Wilkinson, who worked hard over the summer to create this exhibit:
This exhibit explores the impact of Jesse H. Jones on the city of Houston and the United States as a whole through Jones’s lifelong work as an entrepreneur, politician, and philanthropist. Jones rose from humble beginnings to build a significant portion of downtown Houston in the first half of the twentieth century, then took his talents to Washington, D.C. to help rescue the nation’s finances. In his role as chairman of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, Jones became known as the second most powerful man in Washington (after President Roosevelt himself) and was responsible for stabilizing the nation’s banks and mobilizing the country for World War II.
The exhibit highlights items from several of the Woodson’s collections, including the Jesse H. Jones Family & Personal Papers, the Jesse H. Jones Corporate and Property Records, and the J. Russell Wait Port of Houston papers.
Jones was responsible for building a large portion of downtown Houston in the mid-twentieth century; many of his buildings are still standing today. This exhibit includes an interactive map showing the location of 25 of Jones’s buildings downtown. Clicking on a point on the map reveals a photograph and more information about each building, including the date it was built and demolished.
While Jones had a significant impact in Washington with his role in reconstruction finance, his story is particularly pertinent to Houstonians, as his name and legacy is prevalent throughout the city. Together with his wife, Mary Gibbs Jones, he established the Houston Endowment, dedicated at its inception to supporting educational opportunities for minorities.
Jesse Jones is a fascinating man to research, and his collections in the Woodson Research Center hold a wealth of documents and photographs that truly showcase his character and dedication to his greater community.