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Northwest Eureka Springs Fayetteville Rogers Springdale
Northwest Homegrown 0

Harvey Jones: A Strong Leader and Generous Soul

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If you’ve visited a college campus across our state of Arkansas, you’ve likely seen the “Jones” name on at least one building. That was true for my own college experience at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. I was always intrigued by the statue of a sweet couple in the lobby of the Natural Science Center. The man stands stately in his overalls and signature hat, alongside his supportive wife in a tailored business suit and well-manicured hairstyle.

Special permission from U of A Special Collections.

Long before selfies and social media newsfeeds, this statue was included in pictures and campus stories.

After college, I was able to work for my alma mater serving in the development office, connecting with alumni and philanthropists across the country. As I asked questions and dug into stories of the people who had generously invested in the college and region of the state, I was struck by the story of the hardworking man who grew a company from the ground up. He and his wife used their fortune to invest in local education, the medical community and those planning to attend colleges across the state.

Harvey Jones was a man committed to Springdale and helped establish the Northwest Arkansas region as a notable business giant across the nation. The Joneses were committed to their community by serving the public school system and serving on boards for the Springdale hospital and local banks, often using their own money to gain stability throughout the 1930s.

Special permission from U of A Special Collections.

Growing Investments in Business and People

A Washington County native, Harvey Jones moved to Springdale at the age of 16 and set up his first business: a general store. He realized there was a lot of agriculture that needed to move around but not much trucking in the region.

As the story goes, a few years later when the Frisco lines closed for a strike, Jones bought a mule-driven trailer and established a delivery line between Rogers, Springdale and Fayetteville. In 1919, Jones sold the trailer and purchased a federal truck to begin the Jones Transportation Company and extended his route to include lower Missouri and Eureka Springs.

During the 1920s, Jones Trucking Company continued to expand, even as the dark days of the Great Depression loomed. In his natural way, Harvey Jones never said “no” to a customer, turning to bartering as a way to make both parties happy, and serve his fellow man and business owners. The trucking company hauled everything one could find in a local general store, connecting the source of goods to the local mercantile outlets.

In 1933, the company became Jones Trucking Line, establishing a name that would later grow into the largest private trucking business in the United States. One of the most significant factors that added to business expansion was the addition of refrigerated freight trucks. This opportunity to haul goods more securely revolutionized the trucking industry. A brief halt during World War II, when Jones used his trucks to haul war equipment, did not hold back the company’s success. The company officially incorporated in 1949, earning the distinction of the largest privately owned trucking operation.

Harvey Jones married Bernice Irene Young, a Springdale school teacher in August 1938, and together they built this influential business. While they never had children of their own, they were deeply committed to the schoolchildren of Springdale. Harvey Jones served on the school board for 28 years.

Used with permission from The Jones Center

The Jones Trucking Line created an infrastructure across the heartland with hubs in Memphis, Chicago, Oklahoma City and Dallas/Fort Worth. At the height of growth, trucking lines covered 9,000 miles and employed 4,100 people operating 41 terminals in 15 states.

Jones would wear his iconic overalls to the main terminal on Emma street in downtown Springdale, where he could crawl under a truck and help make the repairs himself. Each year the Joneses, who saw their team as family members, would hold a company picnic for their employees. Though a driven businessman, Jones was very well-liked by the community and those who worked for him.

Even with business accomplishments and interests that supported economic development in Arkansas, the Jones’ most notable investment was the one that helped keep the Springdale public schools going through the Great Depression. As funding diminished, Mr. Jones rented a school, paid the teachers, bought school supplies, kept the heating and lights on and made it possible for children to continue to learn.

Special permission from U of A Special Collections.

After doing $80 million in business with his trucking company, and with deteriorating health holding him back, Jones sold to Sun Carriers in 1980. At the time of sale, the company had grown into 123 terminals operating in 22 states.

The Jones Legacy: A Center for Community

The building that served as the original terminal headquarters of the Jones Trucking Line later became The Jones Center for Family and Community, founded in 1995 by Mrs. Bernice Jones. The center was her gift to her community. From the beginning, her goal was for that space to be a community project: a place of “learning, play and fellowship” where all would be welcome.

Her dream of a community center was presented on opening day, “I want the people of the community to realize that The Jones Center is not just for me, but for everybody… and to be part of it; because I want this to go on for years and years when I can’t be here anymore.”

Special permission from U of A Special Collections.

In 1988, then-Gov. Bill Clinton designated July 30 as Harvey Jones Day in Arkansas. It seems like one day is not enough to honor a man who demonstrated work ethic, business acumen, mentoring and investing in others in such a prudent way. But, it does make me think differently about the name on that building where I built so many college memories. The neighboring academic hall continues to produce doctors, nurses, and medical professionals who have become particularly vital and appreciated in our current situation.

As was said of him in his 2000 Arkansas Hall of Fame Induction, “Harvey Jones provided strong leadership and huge contributions to his community.” Indeed, he was one of the first philanthropists who paved the way through generosity, vision, hard work and continual community investment.

 

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in South Arkansas with her husband and sweet Boxer, Bailey and one-year-old son! Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now she is using all of those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom!

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