All of the above have been used to describe "Pete" Jones, but the greatest truth about Pete Jones was that his life was the embodiment of one of the most durable and important of American dreams.
Pete Jones's success story--the poor, backwoods boy who believes that on sheer ability he can climb the heights of industry or government, and does it--was a kind that many Americans have forgotten can still happen in the twentieth century. He avoided reporters and searched hard for his privacy. Pete Jones, oilman, rose to become first the savior and then the guiding genius of one of America's billion-dollar industries. He rose to a position of preeminence among American industrial leaders. The Cities Service Company, acknowledged as one of the outstanding examples of American free enterprise, became an industrial giant through his personal effort and leadership.
He was born on April 19, 1891, on a forty-acre farm in southwest Missouri . . . seventh child of a seventh child. At the age of six, Jones had an income of $2 a week which he gave his mother to spend. He earned the money by getting up before dawn, finishing his chores, arriving at school before the other children and sweeping the floor and scrubbing the blackboards. He clerked in a grocery store in Webb City, delivered newspapers, and bottled pop--at sixty cents a day for a twelve-hour day. There was one fringe benefit, however--all the pop he could drink.
As a boy he worshipped his mother and took her word as law. "Any good in my life is due to her," he said. "One thing she impressed on me was always to tell the truth. If I have established a reputation for anything, it is for integrity. I have always believed in laying it on the line. This won't qualify me as a star diplomat, but it enables me to sleep soundly."
Giving early evidence of his stamina and strong personal fiber, W. Alton Jones worked day and night, saving his earnings for a Vanderbilt education. After completing his first year, however, he returned home to help support his family. Even then, while working full time, he steadfastly pursued his education through correspondence, preparing himself for the illustrious career that was to follow. In 1914, he married his childhood sweetheart, Nettie Marie Marvin, and they were devoted, lifelong companions.
Through his acceptance of public responsibility during World War II, W. Alton Jones provided the kind of leadership at home that paved the way for victory in Europe. Serving on the Petroleum Industry War Council and as president of the War Emergency Pipelines, Incorporated, he built the vital Big Inch and Little Inch pipelines from Texas to the eastern United States. They were built and placed in operation in less time than scheduled and at a lower cost than estimated. Completing this strategic job in time for the D-day invasion at Normandy, he earned the Presidential Certificate of Merit and permanently distinguished himself as an American citizen.
Integrity, concern for his fellow man, and a sense of responsibility characterized his life. Instead of merely amassing his fortune to leave to his family, Pete Jones in 1944 established this foundation, funded it generously during his lifetime, and left the majority of his estate "to promote the well-being and general good of mankind throughout the world."
Until her death in October 1991, Nettie Marie Jones continued to carry on the philanthropic vision of her husband with energy, discernment, and compassion.
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