Fred Jones, an industrialist and civic leader from Oklahoma, was the largest Ford dealer in the U.S. during the 1950s. His 10 successful Ford dealerships across Oklahoma won him the affection of Henry Ford. Jones once made headlines in 1934 by telling Henry, “You make ‘em, Henry, and I’ll sell ‘em.”
Jones was born in Lafayette, Georgia, but moved around throughout his childhood. He landed in Oklahoma and found work as a timekeeper for the Ford assembly plant in Oklahoma City, in 1916. Promoted to wholesale manager, Jones decided sales was a more interesting and lucrative career path. In 1922, he opened his first Ford dealership in Oklahoma City. Offering all-night service, low payment plans, and a used car program, Jones quickly became the largest Ford dealer in the Southwest.
In 1938, Jones assigned a few employees to recondition engine parts in the service department of one of his dealerships, which gave him an idea. Jones opened the Fred Jones Manufacturing Company shortly after. The transition into manufacturing proved beneficial when the Second World War broke out, and Jones was contracted by the National Defense Advisory Commission to assist in the war effort. Jones’ business continued to flourish, and in 1955, with 10 dealerships to his name, Jones was the nation’s number-one seller of Ford cars and trucks. His community of Ford dealerships and service centers covered six blocks of downtown Oklahoma City, and was dubbed “Fred Jones Village.” In 1943, he was elected president of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce and served the city during the post-war years. In 1966, Henry Ford II named Jones “Ford Citizen of the Year.”
In 1968, Jones purchased the Oklahoma City Ford Assembly plant, where he had started career, and he moved his reconditioning business into the four-story building. In 1971, the company rebuilt more than 35,000 engines and 1.5 million component parts, serving 2,500 dealers. Fred Jones passed away in Oklahoma City in 1971.