Famed hotel developer John Q. Hammons died Sunday in Springfield, Mo., the home of his company that developed 210 properties in 40 states. He was 94.
Northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith were beneficiaries of his investments.
Hammons work in the two areas include the convention center in Springdale and the Embassy Suites and John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers, and the original ownership of the Holiday Inn in downtown Fort Smith followed by construction of the Marriott Courtyard in downtown Fort Smith near the Fort Smith Convention Center.
Hammons’ company also owns the Embassy Suites properties in Hot Springs and Little Rock and the Hampton Inn & Suites in Springdale.
Hammons, in the business for more than 52 years, passed away at Elfindale Manor in Springfield, according to an obituary on the Hammons website.
The obituary noted that 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.
“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,” noted the obituary. “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.”
Following several successful real estate ventures, Hammons partnered with Roy Winegardner to buy 10 Holiday Inn franchises from founder Kemmons Wilson. The partners would build more than 30 hotels by the late 1960s.
He then formed John Q. Hammons Hotels in 1969.
“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,” according to the obituary.
Hammons was also known, especially in Springfield, for his philanthropy.
Hammons donated hundreds of millions of dollars to the city of Springfield and other organizations over the last five decades.
The largest donations include 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.
Hammons also donated $30 million to Missouri State University to build the JQH Arena, which opened in 2008.