Floyd Jones was an unusual multimillionaire in our 1 percent times. He and his late wife, Delores, were giving away their fortune. Mr. Jones, a successful Seattle stockbroker, died Jan. 5 at age 90.
He was an unusual multimillionaire stockbroker for our gilded 1 percent times.
No photos of Floyd Jones exist of some chichi setting on his yacht, because there was no yacht.
But there are photos, and memories, of Mr. Jones at the Stanwood Camano YMCA he helped fund with $10 million. Or with Northwest Harvest, the nonprofit that distributes food to the hungry, which he endowed with $5 million. Or the 20-some groups he, along with his late wife, Delores, set out to give their fortune to.
“He thought the concentration of wealth at the very top was very, very dangerous,” says Laura Jones Knudson about her dad. “He always recognized that the middle class is what sets us apart from the rest of the world.”
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The unusual multimillionaire died Jan. 5 at age 90 of prostate cancer at Horizon House’s independent-living facility in Seattle. Delores Jones preceded him in death at age 80 in 2005.
Mr. Jones never forgot his 1930s childhood in poverty, one of 12 children in an Arkansas sharecropper family, picking cotton.
The family home didn’t have electricity until he was 18, Mr. Jones wrote in his 2007 autobiography, “Kisses for Breakfast.” The toilet was outside — “quite a thrill on a frosty morning.”
Wrote Mr. Jones, “When school started each year we all got a pair of new shoes, but we’d go barefoot all summer starting in May … We all hauled water, including Mother … Every Saturday we all took a bath. We’d heat water on the woodstove … we all used the same bathwater. As time went on it got dirtier and colder.”
His son, Steve Jones, says that Mr. Jones was influenced by Warren Buffett, head of Berkshire Hathaway, and in whose company Mr. Jones had been an early investor, a decision that earned him considerable money.
The family could have afforded a new car every month, if they had wanted one. They drove their vehicles for at least a decade, remembers Steve Jones.
The son says that his dad, like Buffett, “felt a moral obligation to give back to society.”
His daughter remembers their parents taking her and her brother to a civil-rights march in Tacoma in 1961 — her dad was probably one of the few financiers at such an event. Her parents, she says, were Roosevelt Democrats and passed on their beliefs to their children.
Mr. Jones was the first in his family to graduate from high school.
Hearing about the GI Bill, he enlisted in the Army and served in Germany, then began attending college. But he was called back to active duty during the Korean War and served in the Reserves as a master sergeant stationed at what was then Fort Lewis.
It was at a dinner party in Seattle that he and his future wife met.
“I had a dance with her and we just fit,” Mr. Jones would remember.
He would finish college in 1954 at the University of Washington with a business degree.
He then applied for a job with the Seattle office of Dean Witter, was turned down, but was hired by the Tacoma branch of the stock brokerage.
Mr. Jones’ daughter says that one of the first interview questions with Dean Witter was, “What fraternity did he belong to? It was that Gucci loafer stockbroker class. Dad had lived in a boardinghouse in the University District. He did say his wife was in a sorority, but he didn’t know which one.”
Mr. Jones was successful, and he was promoted to limited partner and manager at Dean Witter. He then worked for Drexel Burnham Lambert. Mr. Jones would then join his son’s firm, Seattle First Asset Management, and he worked there until November, having had a 63-year career in stocks.
In 1986, the couple formed the Floyd and Delores Jones Foundation, a conduit that brings contributions to many community organizations. In addition to supporting KCTS, the foundation financed a chair in the arts at the University of Washington and also gave to the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation and Planned Parenthood Foundation.
His daughter says Mr. Jones’ wealth began increasing dramatically in the 1990s, and that a decade later larger chunks were being given away.
His son says Mr. Jones didn’t advise his customers to buy a stock that he hadn’t first bought himself and tested out.
In his autobiography, Mr. Jones explained that he began buying Berkshire Hathaway stock starting in 1985, when it wasn’t very well-known, and since then “owned as much stock … as we could … it’s based on real assets — money in the bank.”
Among those speaking at his funeral Friday will be Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU in this state. Mr. Jones endowed the organization in 2014 with $10 million, the largest contribution in the chapter’s history.
Back then, he said he remembered as a youth hearing how older whites talked down to blacks, and he once witnessed a lynching that was never prosecuted. Those memories never left him.
“He wanted a society in which not every social problem is treated as a crime,” Taylor says. “He believed in those old-fashioned, but ever-fashionable, values of doing good. He was a sweet man who felt that the more you gave back to society, the more you got back.”
Along with his son and daughter, Mr. Jones is survived by two brothers, Bill Jones, of Redding, California, and Lawrence Jones, of Twin Falls, Idaho; and two granddaughters. He is also mourned by his companion of 11 years, Alene Moris.
Services will be 11:30 a.m. Friday at Sand Point Country Club, 8333 55th Ave. N.E.