Ozarks Views and Comments

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A legend

John Quentin Hammons, 94, passed away last week in his beloved city of Springfield. Hammons, who had deep ties to Cassville, probably did more in his lifetime of developing property to make Springfield what it is today than any other person to date.

John Q's ties to Cassville go back farther than any news media has recognized. A native of Fairview just over in Newton County, he was a nephew of Mrs. Hardy Kemp, whose home was at Fifth and West Streets in Cassville, across the street from the old Presbyterian Church. He often credited his aunt for his being in Cassville.

First a teacher

After attending the old Monett Junior College, he came to Cassville to teach in the elementary school, which was brand new at the time. In addition to his teaching duties, he prided himself in being the grade school basketball coach. This probably began his interest in sports, which is reflected throughout the campus of Missouri State.

It was my sixth grade year when the old rock gym attracted me to try out for basketball. Hammons was a good coach, heavy on the fundamentals of the game, which I quickly learned.

He quickly noted I was shooting setups off the wrong foot. When I continued, he gave me a ball and one of the side goals in the old gym for repeating the setup shots until I got them right. A rest period one time on the bleachers brought some wrath as he didn't intend for me to quit until I got it right.

Hammons lived in the upstairs, front apartment, in what is now called the old Bayless House. It was there he often held skull sessions for his teams.

His program, which was later adopted as coach by Eunice Thomas, went three years undefeated.

During World War II, he accompanied John Haddock to Alaska, where the two were employed.

Early development

While I was in SMS (the real name) in the late 1940s, he was developing middle-income property east of Glenstone in Springfield. During some time-off periods it was good to visit him, always to hear how much his telephone bill was monthly. It was during this time he offered me a job, but I told him the Korean War was imminent, and it was my intentions to either stay in school or join the Navy. The draft wasn't for me.

His development business slowed at one time, but the war situation pumped up the economy, which made smooth sailing for him the remainder of his life.

After my four years in the Navy, it was back to Cassville and an early job at the Cassville Democrat. Somehow he learned of my return and invited me to Springfield for lunch, where we caught up on several years' separation. Upon completion of his University Plaza, he could be found any day at noon at his favorite table in the back left corner of the dining room. He always seems to welcome a visit and first hand news of Cassville.

Very generous

Hammons was always generous with sharing activities with which he was associated, always securing tickets to games, programs, etc., for his acquaintances. Whether it was Bears games, Juanita Hammons Hall box seats or Highland Springs golf, there was always access through his office.

A number of times in his latter years, he would host various classes from Cassville schools either in a Springfield facility or at one of his Table Rock Lake developments. He seemed to enjoy these gatherings each time they occurred.

Several years ago, he offered Cassville Schools $500,000 toward construction of an auditorium, providing the district would pass a bond issue for the remainder of the costs. For a number of reasons the issue failed. The offer was never repeated. Once it was suggested that the naming of the facility after the donor was a problem with the voters. Hammons never expected this, even though it would have been highly appropriate.

For the dedication of the second nine of the Cassville Golf Course, he arrived by helicopter, spoke briefly, had lunch and was on his way back to Springfield.

Valuable asset

His JQH Inc. reached into 40 states with some of the most outstanding accommodations that could be found. At one time he was the largest single holder of Holiday Inn properties in the organization.

His Chateau on the Lake and Kimberling City area developments are typical of his approach to quality projects that have contributed greatly to the attractiveness of that portion of Table Rock Lake.

Quentin, as he was known here, was a visionary that was undoubtedly one of Springfield's best assets, although there are those in the Queen City who will quickly forget he passed this way. All they need to do is look on MSU, Drury and Mercy Hospital buildings to be reminded how gracious he was.