Jerry Jones’ Family Wealth Started With a Humble Supermarket — Until It Burned to the Ground

Jerry Jones has had an explosive career as a businessman and Dallas Cowboys owner. He bought the team when it was bleeding money and then turned it into one of the most prosperous pro sports organizations in the world. Jones comes from a working-class family from North Little Rock, Arkansas. His father was a grocery store owner, and Jones credits much of his success to watching his dad navigate the tumultuous business world.

Jerry Jones’ early life and lessons from dad

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Jones grew up in North Little Rock where his father owned two grocery stores called Pat’s Markets. His mother, Armenita, also worked at the market as the office manager and finance secretary. Best of Arkansas Sports reports that Jones also worked in the store, carving holes into watermelons so customers could check out its ripeness. 

The two stores were a vital part of the community, and the Jones family was well-respected. That’s why it was such a tragedy when one of the stores burned down in January 1958. Although the cause of the fire was never determined, Pat Jones suspected faulty wiring contributed to the blaze. While they lost one of their stores, the family was lucky enough that insurance proceeds accounted for most of the damage.

Jones moves on

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The family stayed in the Little Rock area until Jerry finished high school. After that, they made their way to Springfield, Missouri, where Pat worked as president and chairman of Modern Security Life Insurance Company. The success of the company skyrocketed after Pat Jones started working there, giving the entire family a comfortable life.

Jerry took many valuable lessons about business from his father. He learned how to take risks and to keep working hard even when disaster strikes. Watching his dad go from a small grocery store owner to the head of an insurance company convinced the younger Jones that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.

Jerry Jones hits the big time

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in 2005
Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys | Eric Isaacs/FilmMagic

After several unsuccessful business attempts and working for his father at the life insurance company, Jones started an oil and gas exploration business that quickly became lucrative. In 1989, he became one of the first people to ever purchase a sports franchise for over $100 million. Jones bought the Cowboys for $140 million. He tells Business Insider that others probably questioned his business acumen as the team was losing around one million a month when he took over.

Jones wasted no time trying to turn the team around. He quickly fired longtime coach Tom Landry and replaced him with Jimmy Johnson. He then fired the general manager and took over the position himself. The front office shakeup allowed the Cowboys to become one of the greatest teams ever and the best of the 1990s. The team won the Super Bowls in 1992, 1993, and 1995. Today, the Cowboys are estimated to be worth $4.8 billion, and Jerry Jones is one of the richest owners in the NFL.

It wasn’t always good times in the front office though. In 2018, CBS Dallas Fort Worth reported an explosion and fire occurred just across the street from AT&T Stadium where the Cowboys play. The fire, which closed the street by the stadium, was reminiscent of the fire that burned down Pat’s Market in 1958. Luckily, no one was injured, and play was able to resume shortly.

Even though Jones experienced multiple hard times and unsuccessful business decisions, he took the lessons he saw in his father, those of perseverance and hard work, and turned a financially struggling team into one of the most lucrative franchises in history.