Jones, Ruth Legett (1892–1978)

By: Katharyn Duff

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1995

Updated: August 7, 2022

Ruth Legett Jones, philanthropist and civic leader, was born in Abilene on December 28, 1892, to K. K. and Lora (Bryan) Legett, pioneer West Texans. She attended Abilene schools, Randolph Macon Women's College in Virginia, and Simmons College (now Hardin-Simmons University), where she completed her bachelor's degree in 1913. She was married in Abilene on December 25, 1915, to Percy Jones, a young Welsh civil engineer and a nephew of railroad builder Morgan Jones. The couple had three children. The family acquired vast real estate holdings, discovered oil, and became one of the wealthiest families in West Texas.

Jones's interest in the welfare of others was evidenced early in her life. In her twenties she financed and directed a home economics class for Abilene Black women. She helped many Black Abilene students achieve advanced education. Her only son, Grenville Dodge Jones, died as a youth. A foundation bearing his name, the Dodge Jones Foundation, was established in his memory. Through the foundation, she and her family built a career of active service and financial dedication to improve Abilene. Among those who benefited from the foundation gifts were Hardin-Simmons University, McMurry College, Abilene Christian University, the West Texas Rehabilitation Center, the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest, and Hendrick Medical Center. The foundation established the Bridge, a unique self-help job program, gave Abilene its largest park, Redbud Park, built a swimming pool for the Black community, and enclosed the pool at Abilene State School.

Ruth Jones's interests were not restricted to Abilene. She was on the Board of Visitors of M. D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute in Houston (now the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center). She assisted ecological research through the Renner Research Center and the brush-control work at Texas Tech University. The Dodge Jones Foundation's grant to the Texas Historical Commission financed the purchase of the Steadham Site for exploration by Texas archeologists. As far as disclosure rules would allow, Jones operated the foundation without fanfare and without publicity. At her death at age eighty-five her will provided that the work of the foundation be continued through her daughters, Julia Jones Matthews of Abilene and Edith Jones O'Donnell of Dallas. Percy Jones died in 1951. Ruth was active in the Republican party and was vice president of the Philosophical Society of Texas and a member of the Texas State Historical Association. McMurry College of Abilene awarded her an honorary doctorate in humanities in 1978. She died suddenly at her home in Abilene on October 16, 1978.

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Abilene Reporter-News, October 17, November 7, 1978. Katharyn Duff, Abilene . . . On Catclaw Creek: A Profile of a West Texas Town (Abilene, Texas: Reporter Publishing, 1969). Vernon Gladden Spence, Judge Legett of Abilene (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1977). Vernon Gladden Spence, Pioneer Women of Abilene (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1981).

  • Women
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civic Leaders
  • Patrons, Collectors, and Philanthropists
Time Periods:
  • Texas Post World War II
  • West Texas
  • Abilene

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Katharyn Duff, “Jones, Ruth Legett,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 12, 2022,

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February 1, 1995
August 7, 2022

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