SPRINGFIELD — More than 450 people attended a memorial service for Springfield developer and philanthropist John Q. Hammons, who built more than 200 hotels in 40 states and also reshaped his hometown.
Hammons died May 26 in Springfield at the age of 94. He built more than 200 hotels nationwide, including Embassy Suites, Marriott and Radisson facilities and developed an expansive real estate portfolio of golf courses, restaurants, convention centers, a casino and riverboat gambling.
"John Q. Hammons had a head for business and a heart for his community," Jim Anderson, president of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, said during the ceremony Tuesday at the JQH Arena at Missouri State University. "He crisscrossed the country, but he always came home to Springfield."
Mayor Bob Stephens highlighted Hammons' contributions to Springfield and listed the numerous buildings he had a major role in developing, The Springfield News-Leader reported.
"He decided it was time for a downtown renaissance, and he drove the city of Springfield, kicking and screaming, into a more urban future," Stephens said.
Hammons enjoyed sports but had an odd habit of leaving games early to get back to the business world, according to longtime friend Jerald Andrews, president of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, which Hammons founded.
Hammons also worked diligently to bring the Springfield Cardinals Double A farm team to Springfield. Springfield Cardinals General Manager Matt Gifford said Hammons built the $32 million Hammons Field even without a firm commitment from the Cardinals management that the farm team would be moved to Springfield.
"He always said it takes guts and money to get things done," Gifford said.
Former Drury University President John Moore said Hammons, who had a reputation as a tough negotiator, never planned to retire and had a goal to live to 100. In his mid-80s, his doctor suggested Hammons had only five or 10 more years to live.
"I need 15," Hammons replied, according to Moore. "He was ready to negotiate the deal right on the spot."