On his 24th birthday, March 9, 1916, Fred Jones stepped off a Rock Island train at the station just north of the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City. He was coming for a visit with his cousin, whose letters had impressed him with the vigor and promise of this young frontier city that had been founded in a single day.
On the northern outskirts of town loomed the skeleton of the new state capitol, and on the western edge of the downtown area, the impressively large new building for the Ford Motor Company assembly plant, which was nearing completion. The southwest was America's great frontier and Fred believed that the automobile was going to revolutionize the American economy. Oklahoma City was the town for him, and the Ford Motor Company was the place to work. Henry Ford had stated that it was his purpose to construct and market a motor car for the multitudes, and the erect, dignified Model T was already becoming a national institution.
By 1923, Fred Jones had bought and successfully sold two Ford dealerships. Less than two years later, he opened a third dealership in Oklahoma City. He averaged selling four new cars a day and shocked his competition by establishing an all-day and all-night service, seven days a week.
"Fast on his feet and quick on the trigger" was a reasonable – and flattering – description of Fred Jones. By 1926, he was the largest Ford dealer in the southwest, and had opened a large dealership in Louisville, Kentucky. "How has Fred Jones done this," a magazine writer asked in the mid-twenties? "What secret power does he possess which enables him to so far outstrip others in the automobile field? Is it through the use of any special system that he achieves such signal successes, or is it because he works harder, knows more about his business and is a shrewder, better manager than the others?"
A dozen years later, as the fourth largest dealer in the nation, Fred Jones wrote in an article for the Ford Dealer News that, "enthusiasm for the product we have for sale, and our desire to render a better service, is the foundation on which we have built our organization."
In 1938, he set up a small section in the service department in Oklahoma City to put out better reconditioned engines and component parts. Jones felt there was a future in the area of service, and he planned to be part of it. That was the start of the Fred Jones Manufacturing Co., which became the largest Ford Authorized Reconditioner in the United States. By 1966, the Fred Jones organization included Ford agencies in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and Lincoln-Mercury dealerships in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Norman.
Commercial air transportation came to Oklahoma City on September 1, 1927, and the first passenger was Fred Jones. This was the beginning of more than three decades of close association with commercial aviation. He became financially and enthusiastically interested in Oklahoma City's fledging Braniff Airways in 1930 and devoted much time to helping the Braniff system. When Thomas E. Braniff died in 1953, Jones was elected chairman of the board of directors, a post he held for more than twelve years. Coincidentally, a passion of Fred Jones' wife, Mary Eddy, was to travel. Fred coined the nickname "Eddy Go Jones" after Mary Eddy, which stuck when speaking of her and her travels. During this time, the couple traveled extensively to South America.
During his many years, only once did Fred Jones go before the voters, though courted to run for both mayor and governor several times. In 1932, he accepted a citizens' draft to serve on the Oklahoma City School Board in a time of severe financial crisis and a graft-ridden administration. He did, however, give himself completely to his city, state, and nation during the years of World War II. To him, this was the most personally satisfying period of his life.
On August 12, 1940, he was drafted to serve as a dollar-a-year man on the National Defense Advisory Commission. This became the War Production Board following Pearl Harbor. On February 16, 1941, the announcement was made in Washington that a $16 million air depot, employing 2,500 persons, would be built in Oklahoma City. Fred Jones played a substantial role in obtaining what was to become Tinker Air Force Base.
He was elected president of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce in 1943 and devoted his energies, enthusiasm, and planning ability to preparing his city for its tremendous post-war potential. In November 1964, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
On the 50th anniversary of Fred Jones' success with Ford, Henry Ford II, chairman of the board of Ford Motor Company and grandson of the founder, proclaimed him, "Ford Citizen of the Year." In his stirring tribute, Ford said, "Over the half-century of Ford Motor Company's association with Fred Jones, my grandfather knew and admired him. My father, Edsel, did the same and I have been happy to continue the family traditions,"
"He is a rare blend of inventive, hard-driving free enterpriser and sensitive, considerate humanitarian. He was the drive and toughness to create a great business enterprise, yet he is a true humanitarian who takes time for the kind of personal remembrances and charities that never come to public notice." "Those who think only of themselves are not ones who get ahead in the world. I am proud of the job Fred Jones has done, not only as an outstanding dealer and manufacturer, but as an advisor to the Ford Motor Company."
In his brief, emotion-tinged response Fred said, "…I'm sure the next 50 years will be a challenge and I ask you to join me in building a better Oklahoma."
Mary Eddy and Fred believed that if one had extra money to give back to the community, it was very important that they help lead the way. In fact, one of the most visible efforts that Mary Eddy began, along with two other good friends, was the charity event called the Winter Ball, which still remains a biennial event.
In addition to traveling and helping within the community, Mary Eddy Jones was an avid gardener; she loved both formal and informal gardens, and arboretums. She loved art and had the talent to entertain beautifully, with a special eye to every detail. The Mary Eddy Jones Peony is named in her honor.
Above all, Mary Eddy Jones loved life. Her enthusiasm was catching and her many friends loved working with her on any project. She was once asked by a friend what one thing she would encourage everyone to do. Her message was, "Take your cookies when they are passed." She believed that life's opportunities may happen only once and it was important to recognize and take advantage of each as they occur.
Another event of particular significance occurred simultaneously. The Fred Jones, Jr. Art Center, a memorial to his son who died in a plane crash the day after Christmas, was dedicated on the campus of The University of Oklahoma in Norman. At the time of his death in 1950, young Jones was a student at the university following his service in World War II. Mr. and Mrs. Jones gave the magnificent, ultra-contemporary art galleries as part of the university's new Fine Arts Center. Mary Eddy Jones was the driving force behind this donation to build a memorial to Fred Jones, Junior.
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