Cassity Jones was born in Panola County, Texas, in 1918, in the cotton farming community of Long Branch. His father died when he was young, leaving his mother with two boys, two girls, and an annual cotton crop to raise. Cassity’s mother had a dream for all of her children to get a college education. It was quite a lofty goal for a family strapped into relative poverty by the depression. Cassity wanted to live up to his mother’s dream. His mother inspired him by giving him a ten-acre piece of land to work in order to earn money for college. Unfortunately, the cotton crop didn’t do very well, earning Cassity a meager $85 for school.
His choice of a university was never in doubt. “I wanted to be an engineer. I didn’t really know what an engineer was, but I wanted to take engineering. So I went to A & M.”
Cassity’s $85 went quickly on transportation, books, supplies and tuition, leaving no money for room and board. He went to the school administration to strike a deal. He obtained a weekend job for .30/hr, which would help cover his expenses. They suggested that Cassity use his farming skills to pay for his room. Once again, his mother provided a means for Cassity to earn money for school. She sent Cassity a milk cow from their farm and before long, demand for his milk grew and Cassity ended up with two milk cows. Shortly thereafter, Cassity got an additional job at night. Soon, his money worries were over. In fact, Cassity was doing so well by his senior year that he actually took a pay cut when he left college and went to work.
Cassity graduated from A&M in 1940, a time when the country was still recovering from the Great Depression and watching the events in Europe. His first job was a supervisor in a New Deal cabinet shop.
When America entered the war, Cassity enlisted in the Air Force. After two years of training, Cassity was based in Holland and served as a radio operator on bombing missions over Germany. After the war, he returned home to Panola County to contemplate his future. After turning down a teaching position in Dallas, Cassity started teaching night classes to GIs at a trade school in Carthage. During that time, Panola County Junior College was organized. “I got a job teaching engineering drawing at Panola Junior College in the daytime and I taught the GIs at night; which was no problem, because, you know, when you’re young, you can do anything!”
Although already working two jobs, Cassity still found time to work with his brother, Tom, on an independent venture. Tom believed there was an opportunity to build homes in Carthage. The two purchased a big GI truck for little or nothing at an Army surplus sale. They purchased their materials wholesale and built a garage to store them in. “We did the whole thing, my brother and I. We would buy the land and I would cut it up into lots. There are subdivisions in Carthage and some here in Longview, in which I did everything.”
Trouble came for the Jones’ when a local lumber company complained that the Jones’ were builders and not retailers, therefore, they should not be allowed to purchase their supplies wholesale. When the supplier gave Cassity the bad news, Cassity said, “Well, I can take care of that. So I went down and rented a building and that’s how I got into the lumber business. The year was 1950 and the place was Carthage, Texas.”