John Thomas Woodruff (1868-1949), was an attorney and businessman and credited as the Godfather of Ozarks highways. He grew up in Crawford County, MO, where he was a prosecuting attorney. He also practiced law in St Louis and was an attorney for the Frisco Railroad in Springfield, where he spent the rest of his life.
Woodruff was largely responsible for the development of the Frisco shops, O’Reilly Hospital, the U.S. Federal Medical Center and the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds in Springfield. He was instrumental in securing the site for Springfield Normal, what is now MSU. He built the Sansone, Colonial, and Kentwood Arms hotels, and Hickory Hills golf course, all in Springfield.
Getting a railroad to one’s town was the chief aim of many in the Ozarks. Getting a paved highway, or better yet, two crossing highways was instrumental in city development, which Woodruff worked tirelessly to achieve. Woodruff’s participation in bringing the federal highway system to Springfield changed our position in state.
Woodruff proudly claimed that, because of the intersection of U.S. 65 (Minnesota to New Orleans) and U.S. 66, Springfield had become “the crossroads of America.”