The Dodge Jones Foundation was a family foundation devoted to civic projects in Abilene, Texas and supporting center-right advocacy nonprofits. The foundation shut down in December 2018 after transferring $28 million in assets to the Dodge Jones Legacy Foundation, which began operations in 2019.
The Dodge Jones foundation was created in 1954 by Ruth Legett Jones and her daughters, Judy Jones Matthews and Edith Jones O’Donnell. The foundation was named after Grenville Dodge Jones, Ruth Legett Jones’s son, who died in1946 at age 22. The wealth for the foundation came from oil. 1
In 1978 Ruth Legett Jones died. Half her fortune went to the Dodge Jones Foundation, run by Judy Matthews, and the other half to the O’Donnell Foundation, run by Edith Jones O’Donnell, which provides grants to Dallas-based nonprofits. 2
Grants to Abilene
Much of the Dodge Jones Foundation’s work in Abilene was in historic preservation. Historian Glenn Dromgoole credited Matthews as having “almost single-handedly saved downtown Abilene from ruin.” Beginning in the mid-1980s, Dodge Jones Foundation grants preserved the abandoned Texas and Pacific railroad station; rebuilt the closed Grace Hotel into a building which houses the Grace Museum, Abilene’s art museum; and restored the abandoned Paramount Theatre, which now is the largest stage in Abilene. 3
In 2011, trustees of the Grace Museum were interviewed by the Abilene Reporter-News. “All agree that without the philanthropic spirit and giving nature of Judy Matthews and her Dodge Jones Foundation, The Grace would have been torn down to make a parking lot and a large portion of Abilene’s history would have been lost,” the newspaper reported. 4 5
Grants to Center-Right Nonprofits
The Dodge Jones foundation steadily gave grants to center-right nonprofit organizations. In 2005, the foundation gave eight center-right nonprofits $10,000 grants, and also gave grants of $30,000 to the American Enterprise Institute, $42,448 to the Washington Legal Foundation, and $50,000 to the National Center for Policy Analysis. 6 In 2010 the foundation gave four center-right nonprofits $10,000 grants, gave $48,200 to the Washington Legal Foundation, and $333,333 to the George W. Bush Foundation towards the construction of the Bush Presidential Center. 7
In 2003, in response to objections from the Dodge Jones Foundation and the United Way of Abilene, YWCA of Abilene executive director Linda Eaves publicly declared that her agency “does not approve” of the hiring of National Organization for Women president Patricia Ireland as CEO of the YWCA of the USA and that donations to the local YWCA were not used to pay Ireland’s salary. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that Eaves’ objections were based on Ireland’s “ties to abortion rights and gay causes.” 8
Termination of Dodge Jones Foundation
In December 2019 the Dodge Jones Foundation closed its doors, honoring the wishes of Judy Matthews, who had died in 2016, that the foundation not continue beyond what would have been her 100th birthday in 2018. In the Dodge Jones Foundation’s last year, it made four transfers of $18 million to the Karakin, Kickapoo Springs, Legett, and Still Water Foundations and $28.7 million to the Dodge Jones Legacy Foundation. Headed by Judy Matthews’s son Kade Matthews, the Dodge Jones Legacy Foundation began operations in 2019. 9
- Greg Jakiewics, “A Wealth of Stories, History, and Photos in New Dodge Jones “Legacy” Book, Abilene Reporter-News, September 9, 2020. Jay Moore, “Abilene’s Greatest Christmas Gift,” December19, 2021, https://spiritofabilene.com/2021/12/19/from-jay-moore-abilenes-greatest-christmas-gift/ (accessed January 13, 2022)
- Brian Bethel, “Dodge Jones’s Last Day of Gift-Giving A celebration of Judy Matthews’s Life,” Abilene Reporter–News, December 13, 2018.
- Glen Dromgoole, “Saving Downtown Abilene,” https://www.thestoryoftexas.com/discover/texas-story-project/downtown-abilene-taylor-county (accessed January 13, 2022)
- Janet Van Vleet, “Saving Grace: Spotlight Was On The People Who Make It Happen,” Abilene Reporter-News, July 29, 2011.
- Janet Van Vleet, “Saving Grace: Spotlight on The People Who Make It Happen,” Abilene Reporter-News, July 29, 2011.
- Dodge Jones Foundation 2005 Form 990.
- Dodge Jones Foundation 2010 Form 990.
- “Groups Protest YWCA Leader,” Chronicle of Philanthropy, May 29, 2003.
-  Brian Bethel, “Dodge Jones’s Last Day of Gift-Giving A Celebration of Judy Matthews’s Life,” Abilene Reporter-News, December 13, 2018. Dodge Jones Foundation 2018 form 990.