Allan Jones (businessman)
|Born||December 31, 1952|
|Education||Cleveland High School|
|Alma mater||Middle Tennessee State University|
|Spouse(s)||Candy Robinson (1972-75)|
Janie Pangle (m. 1983)
William Allan Jones Jr. (born December 31, 1952) is an American businessman from Cleveland, Tennessee. He is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Check Into Cash, Creditcorp, Jones Management Services, and the Community Financial Services Association, as well as several other local lending agencies. He has been called the "father of the payday loan industry" for founding and building the first major payday loan chain.
Early life and education
Jones was born on December 31, 1952, in Cleveland, Tennessee to William A. (Bill) Jones (1919–1981) and Virginia Slaughter Jones (1925–2003).
Jones attended Cleveland High School, where he wrestled and won various awards and served as team captain. He graduated in 1972. Jones credited wrestling with helping build character: "In wrestling, I didn't have anyone to rely on but me." He declined wrestling scholarships to pursue a business degree at Middle Tennessee State University.
Jones left college at age 20 to help his father stabilize the family's small business, the Credit Bureau of Cleveland. He purchased this reporting and debt collection business in 1977 and developed it to become one of the largest credit bureau databases in the state.
Jones sold the credit reporting side of the business to Equifax in 1988, although he retained the name and the company's collection agency division. He then built the company to be the largest in Tennessee with offices from Memphis to Atlanta. Jones sold the company in 1998.
Jones founded Check Into Cash in 1993. The idea arose from him seeing a former credit bureau manager who was operating out of a small service station and cashing checks with the agreement that the owner would hold the checks until the next payday before submitting them to the bank. Check Into Cash eventually grew to include 1,300 stores nationwide.
Check Into Cash
Jones' research revealed the market for small, short term, fee-based loans collateralized by the customer's signature, leading him to found Check Into Cash in 1993. The business model was made possible after Jones allegedly donated large amounts of money to multiple state legislators in order to convince them to change laws that previously prohibited charging of what some have characterized as exorbitant interest rates. In effect, Jones' critics charged that he bought the State legislation that allows him to do business. As of 2005[update] Check Into Cash was the second largest payday loan company in the US and was planning to expand on its existing 1,300 locations.
Community Financial Services Association
Jones has been credited with founding the Community Financial Services Association of America, or CFSA in 1999. CFSA is the national trade association for companies that offer small-dollar, short-term loans or payday advances. Through a code of "Best Practices," CFSA members pledge to abide by responsible industry practices that ensure customers understand the cost and risk of short-term payday advances to facilitate the best financial decisions. The practices also require that members hold themselves "to the highest standard of service".
Jones said he founded CFSA after breaking away from the National Check Cashers Association, due to concerns that the NCCA, now called Financial Service Centers of America, was not giving enough attention to the payday lending industry.
Hardwick Clothes, which began as Cleveland Woolen Mills, was one of two companies founded by C.L. Hardwick in the 19th century. Hardwick put his son Joseph in charge of Hardwick Stove, the family's other business, while his son George ran the clothing company. Cleveland Woolen Mills soon evolved into a manufacturing plant, making suits and other items of apparel. Hardwick Stove was absorbed into Maytag in 1981.
The company, known for its "Sewn in the South" slogan and renowned during the 1960s for making the world's best blazer, was facing bankruptcy when Jones acquired it. Jones has said he was attracted to Hardwick Clothes because it was the oldest business of its kind in America, and is convinced that the American consumer pendulum is swinging back to "made in America."
Within weeks of purchasing Hardwick Clothes, Jones named Bruce Bellusci, former executive vice president at Hart Schafner & Marx, the company's new CEO/president. He also recruited Hart's designer, engineer, and three top salesmen to Hardwick.
In September 2017, Jones made national headlines when he announced that Hardwick Clothes, Check Into Cash and his other companies would no longer advertise during NFL games as a response to the national anthem protests by the league's players, which the businessman called "unpatriotic behavior." Jones was featured on the Fox Business Network discussing the decision.
Jones sold Hardwick in December 2019 to the company Puerto Rico Industries for the Blind.
Other business ventures
The Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce awarded Jones with the M.C. Headrick Free Enterprise Award, the organization's highest honor in 2003. That same year Jones was inducted into the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame.
Jones was included on BusinessTN magazine's "Power 100" list in 2005. Jones appeared on the cover of BusinessTN Magazine and was characterized as "The King of Cash". The magazine ranked Jones as one of the 20 wealthiest people in Tennessee.
In addition to Check Into Cash, Jones has founded or purchased several affiliate agencies, including U.S. Money Shops, a pawn agency, LendingFrog.com, an online lending agency, Loan By Phone, and Buy Here Pay Here USA, a used car finance dealer.
High school wrestling support
Jones is the largest individual supporter of high school wrestling in the United States. He founded the Cleveland/Bradley Wrestling Club in 1990, and provided the $1.3 million funding for the Jones Wrestling Center located on the Cleveland High School campus. The clubs have been successful, with Jones remarking that “It has very little to do with the buildings and it has everything to do with the right coaches.”
In the 2013 state championship, Cleveland beat runner-up Wilson Central 78-4, setting a TSSAA record for the most lopsided margin of victory, most pins and quickest championship. Since the 2006-07 season, the wrestling team has won state championships in 2011, 2013 and 2014, 2015, and 2018.
In 2017, Jones received national attention when he auctioned off a 2009 King Ranch F-150 four-wheel drive pickup truck autographed twice by President George W. Bush. The proceeds of the auction went to benefit Cleveland's Higher Calling Youth Wrestling Club and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum. 
Jones has been described as "Cleveland’s most celebrated benefactor."
In 1990, Jones founded MainStreet Cleveland, dedicated to the revitalization and promotion of Cleveland's historic downtown area and donated the funds for the construction of the Virgil F. Carmichael addition to the Cleveland Public Library. He also wrote and funded Cleveland's Shade Tree Ordinance that helped the city's tree board earn the designation of Tennessee Tree Board of the Year in 2010. Many of the trees that line the city's streets were donated by his foundation. He donated $4 million to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville for construction of a new Allan Jones Aquatic Center.
In 2011, Allan Jones contributed to the non-profit organization tnAchieves, enabling it to launch its scholarship and mentoring program in all three Bradley County high schools, ensuring that every graduating senior from Cleveland High School, Walker Valley High School, and Bradley Central High School had the opportunity to attend Cleveland State Community College. In 2015, Jones was awarded the first-ever honorary degree from Cleveland State during its 49th Commencement Ceremony where he was the keynote speaker. A few days later, Jones received the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Philanthropy from the Tennessee Board of Regents.
In 2012, Jones received the prestigious Fred Gregg Jr. award from the Greater Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame for significant contributions to sports.
In 2014, the Jones family gave a donation to Lee University to purchase the old First Baptist Church building in downtown Cleveland and renovate it into a music performance hall. The building was named “Pangle Hall” in honor of Jones' wife Janie Pangle Jones. Lee University President Paul Conn said Pangle Hall was only possible due to this donation.
In 2017, Jones made national headlines after he donated 43,000 pairs of eclipse-viewing sunglasses to students in six Tennessee school systems. The businessman said the donation was made to ensure students who wanted to view the solar eclipse did so only with safe, NASA-approved glasses.
Jones based the character on stories (local folklore) that were told to his mother, Virginia Slaughter Jones, by her mother, Marie Schultz Slaughter. Virginia and other Cleveland children being raised during the 1930s were told by their parents that if they failed to come home before dark they would likely encounter Tall Betsy, sometimes called Black Betsy or simply "The Lady in Black."
Tall Betsy last appeared in 1998 after drawing a Halloween crowd of 25,000, although no explanation was ever given for the goblin's disappearance. Jones later told a reporter that while the goblin may have vanished, her spirit is embedded in the hearts and minds of the Cleveland residents who saw Tall Betsy during the eighteen years from 1980 to 1998.
The 2005 Block Party was dedicated in honor of Tall Betsy's 25th anniversary. The Block Party drew the largest crowd in the event's history. Jones arranged for nationally recognized celebrities such as the cast of Leave It To Beaver and Little Richard to entertain the more than 30,000 attendees. The Tennessee General Assembly declared Tall Betsy the official Halloween goblin of Bradley County in 1989. In 2011 the character was the subject of a documentary film. In 2014, Jones’ son, Bailey, assumed the identity of Tall Betsy and has appeared as the goblin each year at Halloween.
Criticism and controversy
Jones’ company Check Into Cash has received criticism for its high interest rates and for harming its customers. Most believe that payday loans target those of low-income.
In a 2010 interview with The Huffington Post, when asked about the lack of diversity in his hometown of Cleveland, Jones allegedly said, “We have just enough blacks to put together a decent basketball team — but not so many the good people of Cleveland, Tennessee need to worry about crime. That’s why I can leave my keys in the car with the door unlocked”. He noted that many of his company managers and friends are African Americans. The article cited an anonymous source who claimed some company employees referred to a black man who shines shoes as the "Little Chocolate Man” although no source for the comment was ever provided. Also in that interview, a former employee of Jones' company stated that Jones’ barber shop was successful because of “female barbers with big titties.”
Jones denied ever making the statements to numerous media outlets and claimed he was misquoted, stating "I gave generously of my time…to assist in the preparation for writing a book, purported to fairly represent the credit needs of the middle income working population and the markets that serve them. Unfortunately, (the author) has chosen to rearrange some of my remarks to draw incorrect conclusions regarding my personal views and beliefs."
Jones was indicted on federal charges of wiretapping in 1975 after he placed a recording device on his first wife's telephone in October 1974 after she had been granted a restraining order against him, allegedly to determine if she was having an extramarital affair, which she reportedly was. Jones reportedly used information from the recordings to obtain a divorce. His indictment was dismissed by the local district court before Jones could go to trial, and this dismissal was subsequently upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 1976.
The legality of Jones' payday loan model was challenged shortly after Check into Cash was founded. Initially Jones and other payday lenders claimed that the fee charged did not constitute interest, and therefore did not violate laws capping a maximum interest on loans, which runs contrary to multiple federal laws. In 1997 Check Into Cash was sued in a class-action lawsuit by two Cleveland attorneys, representing multiple customers, alleging violation of the Truth in Lending Act and Fair Debt Collection Act, as well as other illegal practices. Check Into Cash eventually settled the case by paying $2.2 million to the class and $500,000 in attorneys' fees. Jones then began lobbying the legislatures in multiple states to change laws which place caps on interest, which led to the passage of multiple acts including the Tennessee Deferred Presentment Services Act by the Tennessee General Assembly, which permits payday lending with some restrictions. This act considers the fee to borrow money from a payday lender not to be interest, stating "the fee, when made and collected, shall not be deemed interest for any purpose of law."
Jones' first marriage was to Candace Robinson on November 25, 1972. The couple had a daughter, Courtney Elaine Jones, born in 1973. The marriage ended in 1975. On May 14, 1983, Jones married Paula "Janie" Pangle (born 1961) in Bradley County. They have three children: Abby (born 1984), Will (born 1988) and Bailey (born 1991).
Jones' residence is called Creekridge and is located on 400 acres north of Cleveland. It consists of a more than $5 million house constructed between 2003 and 2009, as well as a football field, horse stables, a greenhouse and a classic car collection. It is located near the residence of fellow businessman Forrest Preston. Jones previously lived in the Centenary Avenue Historic District in downtown Cleveland.
Politically, Jones has been an Independent, and has donated to the campaigns of both Democratic and Republican politicians, but his views are characterized to be right-leaning and fiscally conservative. Jones supported Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. A few days after the inauguration of President Trump, Jones stated in an interview with Fox & Friends that he was "tired of Presidents who were politicians" and believed that small businesses would benefit from Trump's policies.
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- The Mat. "Allan Jones Donates $1 Million to Build Wrestling Facilities" by Sandra Rowland, May 23, 2001
- Chattanooga Times Free Press, February 24, 2008
- Drew Ruble, "The King of Cash" Archived August 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, BusinessTN, July 2005
- BusinessTN, July 2005.
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- "About CFSA". cfsaa.com. Community Financial Services Association of America. Archived from the original on May 24, 2011. Retrieved December 7, 2011.
- "Sewing up the deal". Cleveland Banner. June 20, 2014. Archived from the original on July 18, 2014.
- Hill, Fletcher. "A history of our supplier, Hardwick Clothes". Archived from the original on August 12, 2014. Retrieved July 26, 2014.
- "Bruce Bellusci Is New President Of Hardwick Clothes". The Chattanoogan. July 23, 2014.
- "Cleveland Businessman Allan Jones Pulls NFL Ads After National Anthem Snub". Chattanoogan. September 27, 2017. Retrieved November 3, 2017.
- Tennessee business owner on pulling ads from NFL (Video). Fox Business. September 29, 2017. Retrieved November 19, 2017.
- "Hardwick Clothes in Cleveland acquired by Puerto Rico nonprofit, will add 100 workers". timesfreepress.com. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
- "Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame, 2003" Archived March 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, October 2003.
- Green, Alex (February 5, 2015). "The Lord of Loans: How Cleveland payday-loan pioneer Allan Jones was propelled to fame and fortune". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved November 3, 2017.
- The Mat, "Allan Jones Donates A Million Dollars", by Sandra Rowland, May 23, 2001.
- "Wrestling center gets funding for addition". Cleveland Daily Banner. Archived from the original on November 29, 2014.
- "Jones puts Bush's truck on auction block". Cleveland Daily Banner.
- Carroll, David (August 4, 2011). "Cleveland, Bradley Students Get College Tuition Help". WRCBtv.com. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
- "Cleveland State Honors Allan Jones with Philanthropy Award". www.clevelandstateecc.edu. Archived from the original on April 17, 2016. Retrieved March 31, 2016.
- "Gregg Award going to Jones". www.timesfreepress.com.
- "Lee to dedicate Pangle Hall with student, faculty, alumni music". Times Free Press. Chattanooga, Tennessee. October 23, 2014.
- "Protect those eyes! Businessman focused on kids' safety". www.clevelandbanner.com.
- Woop FM.com, April 1, 2011, “WOOP Investigates the Legend of Tall Betsy”
- "Tall Betsy to Appear at Block Party". Cleveland Daily Banner. Cleveland, Tennessee. October 30, 2015. Retrieved October 30, 2015.
- "'Tall Betsy' returning to life in documentary". Cleveland Daily Banner. October 13, 2011. Archived from the original on November 27, 2012. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
- "Check Into Cash Reviews - Real Customer Reviews". Best Company. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- "The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/28/10". MSNBC. Retrieved October 2, 2017.
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- Report, Staff (June 21, 2010). "Check into Cash founder Jones denies racial remarks". Times Free Press. Retrieved December 20, 2017.
- United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. William Allan Jones Jr., Defendant-Appellee., 542 F.2d 661 (United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit 1976).
- Bowers, Larry C. (July 12, 2018). "Jones reflects on 'Check' history". Cleveland Daily Banner. Cleveland, Tennessee. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
- Fox, Jean Ann (November 1998). "The Growth of Legal Loan Sharking: A Report on the Payday Loan Industry". in.gov. Consumer Federation of America. Archived from the original on April 10, 2017. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
- "Tennessee Code Annotated". advance.lexis.com. 2011. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
- "Allan Jones Challenge Gift for Intercollegiate Aquatic Center Announced". University of Tennessee. November 9, 2002. Archived from the original on August 11, 2014. Retrieved August 5, 2014.
- Green, Alex (April 27, 2015). "How Forrest Preston built Life Care Centers into the biggest privately held company in the industry". timesfreepress. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
- Allan Jones on Fox and Friends. Fox News. January 30, 2017.