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Hotel builder, philanthropist John Hammons dies

(Reuters) - John Q. Hammons, a real estate developer who built a hotel empire and became a leading philanthropist in his native Missouri, has died at age 94, his company said.

Hammons died on Sunday at the Elfindale Manor nursing home in Springfield, Missouri, a statement on the John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts website said.

His company became the largest private, independent owner and manager of upscale hotels in the United States and now runs 78 hotels, the statement said. His hotels include such brands as Embassy Suites, Marriott and IHG.

During his career, Hammons developed 210 hotel properties in 40 states, it said.

Hammons grew up in Fairview, Missouri, during the Great Depression. He earned a degree from Southwest Missouri State Teachers College and was a junior high school teacher and basketball coach.

After World War Two service, Hammons became a real estate developer in Springfield, in southwest Missouri. He built the city's first suburban housing and moved on to apartment complexes and shopping centers.

Hammons donated hundreds of millions of dollars to Springfield and organizations such as the city's Hammons Heart Institute and the Hammons School of Architecture at Drury University.

Although his given first name was James, Hammons used the name "John Q." when he introduced himself to politicians or organizations to show that he was representing the general public, as in the proverbial John Q. Public. The name stuck, and he became known as John Q. Hammons, the statement said.

Hammons is survived by his wife of 64 years, Juanita.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Philip Barbara)

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