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Profile Last Updated: 10/23/2020 Grant Information Last Updated: 02/19/2021 eGrant

Houston Endowment

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Purpose and Activities

Houston Endowment advances equity of opportunity for the people of greater Houston and enhances the vibrancy of our region. .


Incorporated in 1937 in TX - Jesse Jones was born on Apr. 5, 1874 and grew up on his family's prosperous tobacco farm in Robertson County, Tennessee. At age 20, Mr. Jones moved from Tennessee to Texas to work at his uncle's largest lumberyard. He started building small homes south of downtown that he sold on unique, long-term installment plans. Then he began building Houston's first skyscrapers. He continued to add office buildings, movie theaters and hotels to the central business district in time for the opening of the Houston Ship Channel in 1914. Mr. Jones' success with the Ship Channel caught Pres. Woodrow Wilson's attention. When Pres. Wilson asked Mr. Jones to become director general of military relief for the American Red Cross, he accepted. After the war, Mr. Jones accompanied the president to the Paris Peace Conference and helped reorganize the Red Cross. Mr. Jones returned to Houston and married Mary Gibbs Jones in 1920. Mary Gibbs Jones was born on Apr. 29, 1872, in Mexia, Texas. During the depths of the Great Depression, Pres. Herbert Hoover asked him in 1932 to serve on the board of the newly created Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). After his inauguration, Pres. Franklin Roosevelt expanded the RFC's powers and made Mr. Jones its chairman. As World War II loomed, Mr. Jones shifted the RFC's focus from domestic economics to global defense. In 1940, Congress passed a special resolution allowing Mr. Jones to become secretary of commerce while maintaining his RFC position. After 14 years of public service in Washington, D.C., the Joneses returned to Houston in 1946 and began to focus on philanthropy. By the time Mr. Jones passed away on June 1, 1956, the endowment had helped more than 4,000 students attend 57 colleges and universities. Mrs. Jones joined Houston Endowment's board in 1954. More than 30 scholarship programs were named for Mrs. Jones, and since her death on Aug. 20, 1962, many more Houston Endowment grants have carried her name as a tribute to her public service and philanthropy


Houston Endowment

Independent foundation




600 Travis, Ste. 6400 Houston, TX United States 77002-3003

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