David A. Jones Sr., co-founder of Humana, dies at 88. ‘A True giant among men.’

David Jones Sr., co-founder of Humana. Photo courtesy Awesome Inc.
David Jones Sr., co-founder of Humana. Photo courtesy Awesome Inc. Photo courtesy Awesome Inc.

David A. Jones Sr., the founder of Humana — one of Kentucky’s largest employers — died Wednesday at 88 years old.

Gov. Matt Bevin called Jones “a true giant among men” and “one of the finest men to ever live.”

“In the course of a lifetime, a person would be fortunate to ever meet someone of the combined intellect, generosity, humility and all around caliber of David A. Jones,” Bevin wrote on Twitter.

Jones and the late Wendell Cherry founded Humana in 1961. Throughout most of the company’s history until his retirement in 2007, Jones served as chairman and CEO and Cherry was the president and COO.

Humana began as a nursing home company and then changed in the 1970s and ‘80s into the nation’s largest hospital company. In the early 1990s, Humana spun off its hospitals and began focusing on health benefits, which it continues to do today.

Jones was the company’s CEO for 37 years.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday that David was the single most influential friend and mentor he’s had.

“David used his focus and many other talents to build an extraordinary American business and better his community,” McConnell said. “Whenever a local need had everybody else stumped, David always seemed to end up in the thick of it, forging a path to success.

“Many will rightly reflect on David’s brilliance and determination. But he was also one of the kindest, most decent, most generous individuals I have ever met,” McConnell added. “I will sorely miss his friendship. Elaine and I join all of Louisville in grief and in appreciation for our friend David.”

Jones’ wife, Betty, died in August at 86 years old. They were married for 65 years.

Betty and David Jones - 2.jpg
Betty and Davd Jones Sr. Humana

Humana CEO Bruce Broussard said it is a sad day for the Humana team.

“In his extraordinary lifetime, David changed the lives of so many people,” Broussard stated. “As co-founder of Humana, he planted a seed that today has grown into a company that serves millions of people in their healthcare needs, helping them live healthier and happier lives. In addition to his impact at Humana, he inspired and made a significant difference in the lives of many others, in and outside the Louisville community, and around the world.”

According to Fortune, the Louisville-based Humana has 41,600 employees.

House Speaker David Osborne said Kentucky is a better place because of Jones.

“As a businessman, he was a visionary who changed the delivery of health care dramatically,” Osborne said. “However, his real legacy can be found in the countless individuals and charitable organizations that he invested in building. His was the All-American success story, made better because he believed that the same achievements could be possible for anyone willing to work hard. Mr. Jones’ impact will be felt in this state for generations to come.”

Betty and David Jones - 1.jpg
Betty and David Jones Sr. Humana

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers said Jones’ effects on Kentucky and the world as a whole are impossible to quantify.

“While he will forever be remembered for his impact on the healthcare industry, his lasting memory will be one of a caring and patriotic man who loved Kentucky,” Stivers stated. “I cherish the kindness he bestowed upon me over the years, whether it was unsolicited notes of encouragement or conversations about our sons, both Marines. David was a man who touched many lives, but more than anything, he sought what was best for the city of Louisville, the commonwealth, and the future generations of Kentucky.”

Mike Stunson covers breaking news and real-time news for the Lexington Herald-Leader and He is a 2011 Western Kentucky University graduate who has previously worked at the Paducah Sun and Madisonville Messenger as a sports reporter.