SEATTLE — Floyd Jones, a philanthropist who gave millions of dollars to local charitable efforts, died Jan. 5 at his home.
He was 90.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested gifts to any charity. It’s a reflection of the way Jones, of Seattle and Camano Island, lived. He made a fortune in the investment industry, but believed investing in people was more important.
“I’ve given away a great deal of money over the last 25, 30 years, but I’m worth more now than I ever was,” Jones said during a speech in 2012.
He had a saying: “When you give, you gain.”
Jones was born in Arkansas, the second youngest of 12 children in a sharecropping family. As a child, he picked cotton. He’d start school late each year to finish the harvest. His dad urged him to drop out, but his mom supported his love for learning.
He was the first in his family to finish high school. He joined the Army and qualified for the GI Bill to pay for college. He earned a business degree from the University of Washington.
Jones met his wife, Delores, at a USO dance. They were married 52 years, until her death in 2005.
“He lived the American dream, and had great respect for his fellow man,” son Steve Jones said.
Floyd and Delores Jones strove to live frugally and directed their money toward philanthropy, he said. The couple established a charitable foundation in 1986.
Jones was a successful stockbroker and an early investor, for himself and his clients, in Berkshire Hathaway. He’s quoted as saying that the best training he ever got was picking cotton because it taught him work ethic and ambition.
He worked as a broker for 63 years and mentored many. He left the industry in November.
“He was just a real hard worker that could identify with a lot of people, and they trusted him,” Steve Jones said. “One of the reasons he was so successful is he lived within his means and he was progressive in his thinking. He never bet against the U.S. economy.”
Floyd Jones was adventurous and curious, daughter Laura Jones Knudson said. He went on an African safari at age 85.
He set an example by helping not only organizations, but individuals. He believed in giving people a hand up in life, Knudson said.
He was passionate about civil rights and social justice.
Knudson remembers watching a civil rights march in Tacoma with him when she was young. They sat on top of the car and watched her mother march by, while her father explained the importance of the demonstration.
At a young age, working in cotton fields, he saw the difference in how he was treated as a white boy compared to how black children were treated.
“He was a very bright man, and I think he could see the injustices from the time he was kid,” Knudson said. “He had an internal sense of right and wrong.”
“He made good use of his time on Earth,” Knudson said.
The Joneses split their time between Seattle and Camano Island. Delores’ grandparents immigrated from Sweden to a farm on Camano, and she grew up in Stanwood.
The couple’s foundation gave $10 million toward the construction of the Stanwood-Camano YMCA. It was one of his father’s favorite projects, Steve Jones said. He got to see it through from beginning to end, and attended the one-year anniversary celebration. There’s also a Floyd and Delores Jones Pavilion at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle and the Floyd and Delores Jones Playhouse at the UW School of Drama.
The foundation likely will continue its work, though not as extensively, Steve Jones said. His father left a legacy of giving.
“He just felt that those who achieved great success in the U.S. had a moral obligation to make it possible for the next generation,” Steve Jones said. “Keep the dream alive.”
Floyd Jones is survived by his son and daughter, granddaughters, two brothers, a sister-in-law, and his partner of 11 years, Alene Moris.
A celebration of life in the Stanwood-Camano area is planned for this spring. A time and location have not been announced.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.