John Q. Hammons

Honorary Award Winner

Hotel legend and Missouri-native Mr. John Q. Hammons was for 52 years a leading innovator in the lodging industry. He was well known for his shrewd market analysis and for creating 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. Mr. Hammons developed 210 hotel properties in 40 states and would reinforce, “we’re not just building hotels, we’re creating communities.”

Mr. Hammons grew up in Fairview, 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. Widely known as an advocate of education, Mr. Hammons held honorary doctorate degrees from MSU, Drury University and Northwood University.

Following his service in the U.S. military where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant JG (junior grade), Mr. Hammons recognized that G.I.s returning from World War II would need quality housing in which to raise their families. He began building the first suburban housing in Springfield in the late 1940s and established a number of real estate ventures, including housing tracts, apartment complexes and shopping centers.

Mr. Hammons entered the hotel industry in 1958 and joined with Roy E. Winegardner to purchase their first 10 Holiday Inn franchises from founder Kemmons Wilson. Winegardner & Hammons (WHI), of Cincinnati, a hotel development company, was formed in 1958. By the late 1960s, WHI had constructed nearly three dozen Holiday Inn hotels. Mr. Hammons formed John Q. Hammons Hotels in 1969. He knew the U.S. Interstate Highway System by memory and had the remarkable gift for envisioning the vast potential of an empty field. He was a passionate developer and believed a hotel with adjacent, sizeable meeting space is a winning formula.

He built John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts into the largest private, independent owner and manager of upscale hotels in the United States. Today the company operates 78 hotels/nearly19,000 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 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.

Throughout his more than five decades in the hotel industry, Mr. Hammons was honored and recognized with countless awards for his achievements not only as an hotelier, but also as a philanthropist. A sampling of honors includes:

Hilton Hotels Corporation – Hilton Family Lifetime Achievement (2009); The Lodging Conference – Above & Beyond Award (2009); Ozark Trails Council of Boys Scouts of America – Distinguished Citizen Award (2009); ALIS Lifetime Achievement Award (2007); IHG Owners’ Association – Kemmons Wilson Service Award (2006); HOTELS Magazine – Corporate Hotelier of the World (2003); Embassy Suites – Developer of the Year (2003); USA Today’s Newspapers in Education Program – Appreciation Award (2003); Hilton Hotels Corporation – Connie Award (2002); Annual Industry Investment Conference – Lifetime Achievement Award (2000)

Mr. Hammons and his wife, Juanita, were active in the Springfield community, where he reinforced his deep passion for sports, love of the arts, and support of education and healthcare.

He donated hundreds of millions of dollars to the city of Springfield and other organizations over the last five decades. Some of his most notable philanthropic efforts include:

The funding of 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. Mr. Hammons also donated $30 million to Missouri State University to build the JQH Arena, which opened in 2008.

Although his proper first name was James, Mr. Hammons originally used the name “John Q.” when he introduced himself to city leaders or organizations as a way to convey the message that he was there representing the general public and progress. The name stuck, and he forever became known as John Q. Hammons.