Jonathan Westervelt Warner was born in Decatur, Illinois on July 28, 1917 and moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama as a child when his grandfather Herbert E. Westervelt consolidated the company as Alabama’s first modern pulp and paper mill in 1929. He graduated from Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana in 1936 and received a degree in Business Administration from Washington & Lee University. He served in the United States Army (Calvary) from 1941-1945 as a commissioned officer with the Mars Task Force in the Burma Theater of Operations.
Jack presided over Gulf States Paper Corporation for nearly 50 years, creating a quality leader in the American paper industry. He expanded operations from a single product and a single plant, to create a large, diversified company with operations in timber, lumber, wood pulp, paperboard, molded wood products and folding cartons spread across five states. Along the way, the Company garnered environmental protection awards from the National Wildlife Federation, the American Paper Institute and the Environmental Protection Agency.
In addition to serving as CEO and Chairman of Gulf States, he has had many honors in the Business arena including Chairman and President of the Alabama Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Board of Visitors, UA College of Commerce and Business, Trustee of the American Forest Institute, Chairman and President of the Warrior-Tombigbee Development Association, Member of the National Board of the Smithsonian Institute, Trustee Emeritus Washington & Lee University, Alabama Academy of Honor and the Alabama Business Hall of Fame.
Jack Warner was a champion swimmer during his undergraduate days at Washington and Lee University setting a school record in the breaststroke. Warner has remained active in a variety of sports over the years – most notably swimming, tennis and horseback riding. During the 1960s and 1970s Mr. Warner ran one of the country’s finest stables of competitive championship thoroughbreds. One of his best, Do-Right, helped win a gold medal for the U.S. Equestrian team in the 1975 Pan-Am games in Mexico City, and Tuscaloosa won a bronze medal at the Montreal Olympics. Warner was honored in 1989 by the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame with the Alabama Distinguished Sportsman Award. He envisioned and created Northriver Yacht Club, an outstanding golf, swimming, tennis, recreational and residential complex in Tuscaloosa. He established one of the country’s best known managed hunting preserves, The Westervelt Lodge.
A pioneer collector and appreciator of American Art, he was awarded the Frederic Edwin Church award in 2010 for assembling one of the greatest private collections of American art, including hundreds of paintings, furniture, and decorative art objects representing masterpieces of American art from the 18th century through the early decades of the 20th century. His achievement was also recognized in 2011 by the naming of the newly opened Jack and Susan Warner Hudson River Gallery in the Metropolitan Museum of American Art in New York. His remarkable collection of highly significant American paintings, neoclassical furniture, sculpture and decorative arts was displayed and operated by his Foundation in the Westervelt Warner Museum of American Art from 2002 until 2011 where it attracted thousands of visitors to Tuscaloosa each year and enhanced the educational opportunities for children and the community. His art included works by Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt, Asher B. Durand, John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth and many others.
Warner was well known for his generous philanthropy to many causes including the University of Alabama as well as Auburn University, Culver Military Academy, Washington and Lee University, the First Presbyterian Church, the United Way, and the City of Tuscaloosa, where he built community swimming pools and provided programs for many underprivileged children to receive swimming and water safety lessons as well as art and history education at his Westervelt Warner Museum of American Art.
Relatives of Jonathan W. Warner
Deceased: Brother, David Warner, Former wife, Elizabeth Butler Warner, Sister, Joan Warner, Son, David Turner Warner
Immediate Family: Wife, Susan Austin Warner; Sons, Jonathan W. Warner, Jr (Sheila) Grandchildren, Matthew Cade Warner, Jonathan Westervelt Warner, III and Elizabeth Butler Warner (Hannah), Stepsons, Patrick W. Austin and P.J. Austin; Sister, Helene Hibbard (Norman), numerous nephews and nieces
- The Culver Military Academy – 1933-1936
- Washington & Lee University – Bachelor of Science, 1940
- U.S. Army, Calvary, 1941-1945
Employment: Gulf States Paper Corporation, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
- 1945 – 1950 Sales Manager
- 1950 –1957 Executive Vice President
- 1957 – 1959 President
- 1959 – 1995 President and Chairman of Board
- 1995 – 2005 Board of Directors
Other Business Activities
- President (2-terms) of the Greater Tuscaloosa Chamber of Commerce.
- Chairman and 3-term President of the Alabama Chamber of Commerce.
- Director of the American Paper Institute
- Director of the Alabama Great Southern Railroad Company
- Trustee of the American Forest Institute
- Chairman and four-term President of Warrior-Tombigbee Water Development Association
- Director of Associated Industries of Alabama
- Director, Vice President of Southern States Industrial Council
- Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Birmingham Branch
- Director of The First Alabama Bank of Tuscaloosa
- Director of First National Bank of Tuscaloosa
- Trustee of Washington and Lee University
- Trustee of The Culver Educational Foundation
- President’s Cabinet, The University of Alabama
- Trustee, Southwestern University at Memphis
- Trustee, Mount Vernon
- Chairman, Board of Visitors, The U of Alabama College of Commerce and Business Administration
- Member, National Board of the Smithsonian Institute
Honors and Awards
- Alabama Hall of Fame. 1979
- Alabama Business Hall of Fame, 1983
- Alabama Athletic Hall of Fame, 1989
- Distinguished Achievement Award, President’s Cabinet, University of Alabama, 1999
- Frances G. Summersell Award, The University of Alabama, 1999
- Alexis de Tocqueville Award, United Way of West Alabama, 1998
- Athletic Hall of Fame, Washington and Lee University 1998
- Lifetime Achievement Award, Alabama State Council on the Arts, 1997
- Lifetime Achievement Award, Greater Tuscaloosa Chamber of Commerce, 1997
- Honorary Chairman, 250th Anniversary of Washington and Lee University
- Frederic Edwin Church Award, 2010
- Pillars of the Community Award, 2011
- Married to Elizabeth Butler Turner, 1940-2005
- Sons: Jonathan Westerverlt Warner, Jr, and David Turner Warner (deceased)
- Married: Susan Gates Austin, 2006 – present
- Grandchildren: Cade Warner, Westervelt Warner III, and Elizabeth Butler Warner
- Step-sons: Patrick W. Austin and Philip J. Austin
Warner’s own artistic creativity is on display in the permanently unfinished 4 acre garden surrounding his nearby home on the shores of North River Lake, “Whispering Cliffs”. He designs it continuously, and has a crew working on it daily. The many waterfalls and planted dead trees suggest it is his own personal Hudson River Landscape painting. In walking through the garden in March one is impressed by the fact that it is as he describes it: an “all season garden”. He believes one “can find God in a leaf, a flower and a landscape”.