In Memory of Jess Hay
(January 22, 1931 – April 13, 2015)
It is with great sadness that we share the news that Jess Hay, a founding board member of the Friends of the National World War II Memorial (Friends), passed away on April 13, 2015 at his home in Dallas, Texas surrounded by his family. Mr. Hay played an integral role in raising the necessary funds to build the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC and was a crucial guiding force in the development of Friends.
Jess Hay was a good man. His steadfast faith, devotion to family, loyalty to friends, unflinching optimism, and uncompromising integrity inspired everyone who knew him. He was renowned for his advocacy for education – from early childhood development to the great research institutions of our state, he was sought after for his political support and advice, he was engaged for his business acumen, and he was respected for his complete dedication to any task he undertook. His influence will be felt for decades by the people he knew and the institutions he has served. Jess Hay, a true gentleman and a gentle man, will be missed by many.
Friends board member Bob Bohannon and a close friend of Mr. Hay shared, “I have believed for a very long time, that if God has made a better person than Jess Hay, I haven’t met him or her and I don’t think that I ever will. And, for those that knew him, most, if not all, would agree with me.”
Jess Hay was born in Forney, Texas on January 22, 1931. He was married to Betty Jo Peacock Hay from August 3, 1951, until her death on February 16, 2005.
Throughout his life, Mr. Hay was an active member of the Methodist Church, and an enthusiastic supporter of most of the denomination’s teaching, social, medical, and spiritual outreaches.
Mr. Hay was a graduate of Southern Methodist University, from which he received a BBA degree in 1953 and a law degree, magna cum laude, in 1955, graduating valedictorian and standard bearer from his law school class.
From 1955 through 1965, he practiced law as an associate and then partner of Locke, Purnell, Boren, Laney & Neely in Dallas.
Mr. Hay then served as chief executive officer of Lomas Financial Corporation and its subsidiaries from September 1965 until his retirement in December 1994. In 1995, Mr. Hay co-founded and served as Chairman of HCB Enterprises Inc, a private investment firm, until March 2007.
Mr. Hay’s external activities throughout the last half century have been extensive.
Jess Hay’s involvement in politics was legendary. He was an active participant in the nation’s political process beginning in 1950, and in 1977 and 1978, he served as National Finance Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. … Vice President Walter Mondale once said, “If you are running for office in Texas, first visit the Alamo, then meet with Jess Hay.” Former Texas Land Commissioner Garry Mauro said of Mr. Hay, “Always the perfect gentleman even in the most heated of insider political debates, Jess Hay was the cool head, the soft spoken mediator, the most respected figure in the room. He never had to raise his voice. Texas will miss him.”
President Bill Clinton shared, “I mourn the passing of Jess Hay, my friend of more than 40 years. I first met Jess in Dallas in 1972. He was already a successful businessman and I was a young law student working on the Presidential campaign. In spite of the differences in our age and circumstances, he treated me with kindness and respect. That’s how he treated everyone. He was grateful for his family and his success, and he wanted others to have the same chances he did. So he devoted a lot of his life to spreading opportunity, boosting education, and improving health care for his Texas neighbors. Jess Hay was a good man, with a fine mind and a big heart. I’ll miss him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”
Mr. Hay served as a member and chairman of the finance and policy committee of the World War II Memorial Advisory Board, and was a founding board member of the Friends of the National World War II Memorial.
Jess Hay is survived by his two daughters and their families and many devoted friends.
[Excerpted and modified from dignitymemorial.com]
Messages from the Friends of the National World War II Memorial Board of Directors:
In my days with ABMC, Jess’s wise counsel and support for me was of critical importance. He was the first member of the White House WWII Memorial Advisory Board to back me fully on the need to raise sum of at least $100 Million for the construction of the Memorial on its place on the Mall where we wanted it, costing four times what the White House Advisory Board and ABMC staff had in mind. A word from Jess to President Clinton opened the doors for my important meetings with Mack McLarty on the WWII Memorial, the president’s Chief of Staff. Later I asked Jess to be an honorary member of my Site and Design Committee. His quiet measured counsel and encouragement to the Committee (Pat Foote, Rolly Kidder, Frank Moore, and Helen Fagin) were of great importance and especially comforting to me personally. When it came time for fundraising Jess was a true rainmaker for the Memorial’s Capital Campaign, raising many, many millions of dollars from his wide circle of friends and admirers in the corporate world, especially from firms which are now AT&T. He and I both struck out in a final joint effort to get a continuing annual appropriation for ABMC from the Congress for the perpetual care and maintenance of the WWII Memorial. A few years later, I turned to Jess for help in founding The Friends of the National WWII Memorial. He has served on the Board as a revered senior member and as Chairman of its Governance Committee throughout its history. Today I had a call from Ramona, his life long secretary asking me on behalf of Jess’s family, if I would serve as an honorary Pall Bearer at Jess’s Memorial Service in Dallas next Tuesday, that this was Jess’s wish. Moved beyond words I close quoting Friends board member Bob Bohannon, who was like a devoted younger brother to Jess, saying ‘I have believed for a very long time, that if God has made a better person than Jess Hay, I haven’t met him or her and I don’t think that I ever will. And, for those that knew him, most, if not all, would agree with me.’ Amen, Amen. Ambassador F. Haydn Williams, Chairman Emeritus
The Friends of the National World War II Memorial has lost a giant whose legacy, however, will live on; a powerful testimonial to the cause he cherished and to his own life of service to our country. We join together in condolences for Jess’ family and in gratitude for Jess’ devoted and bountiful allegiance to our cause. Josiah Bunting, Chairman
Jess truly was a giant, a great man. Robert Bohannon
We have lost one of the true giants who brought the WWII Memorial into being. He is not replaceable and will forever remain in our hearts. Brigadier General Pat Foote, USA (Ret.)
Jess is a great loss to this board and our nation!! He was a great Patriot and Leader. It was a privilege to call him my friend. A sad loss to us all. Lieutenant General Mick Kicklighter, USA (Ret.)
My first memories of Jess were of his involvement with the World War II Memorial as a member of the WWII Memorial Advisory Board (MAB). In my view, he was the strongest leader on that Board. Without his leadership, we never would have achieved the close coordination which was required between that board and the American Battle Monuments Commission. At times, his close relationship to the White House was also instrumental in making important decisions and advancing the cause of the Memorial. He was selfless in his devotion in getting the Memorial built, raising money for its construction, and ensuring that it would be a Memorial for the Nation and to those who served during the Second World War. He always gave straightforward and unambiguous counsel to everyone involved. There are very few ‘Jess Hays’ who come along in a lifetime. Rolland Kidder, vice chairman
Jess was a visionary and extraordinarily well respected leader. … He taught me a great deal and was a wonderful mentor! Cathy Marine-Dolecki
He was bigger than life. Robert Peck
Jess was a wonderful advisor to me during the early days of Friends, a source of organizational and fundraising expertise, and always a gentleman. He will be missed by many. Ruth Rodgers, Secretary
©2020 Friends of the National World War II Memorial
Friends is grateful to the following Founding Sponsors for their ongoing commitment to preserving the legacy, lessons, and sacrifices of our Greatest Generation.