Arthur A. Jones (November 22, 1926 – August 28, 2007) was the founder of Nautilus, Inc. and MedX, Inc. and the inventor of the Nautilus exercise machines, including the Nautilus pullover, which was first sold in 1970. He was born in Arkansas, and grew up in Seminole, Oklahoma, and bought the estate in Ocala in 1980.
Before animals and Mr Jones, the owner was the society lady, Muriel Vanderbilt Adams. The great-great-granddaughter of the founder of the Vanderbilt fortune, Adams wintered here and raised exotic birds. For a brief spell, Jumbolair was owned by Jose Antonio Fernandez, the Miami ringleader of a large drug operation. Today the owner is Terri Thayer.
Thayer was 18 when she married 57-year-old Arthur Jones, the inventor of Nautilus exercise equipment. They bought the property in 1980 and before long, the wealthy couple had created a farm country curiosity: airport, private home, wild animal sanctuary and celebrity resort.
Arthur Jones kept a gorilla, three white rhinos, 600 crocodiles and 500 snakes on his farm, a 550-acre estate in Marion County, as well as 17 african elephants. In 1984, the couple flew their Boeing 707 to Zimbabwe and airlifted a herd of baby elephants slated for government slaughter. The rescue was featured on ABC's 20/20. In all, 98 elephants lived at Jumbolair, which was more than the total population if african elephants in all Zoos in Northamerica.
According to Dale Tuttle, director of Springfield Zoo, 10 elephants died between 1984 and 1987 from transport stress, wounds and diseases. 37 elephants were sold to Zoos and Circuses before 1987 and 49 elephants were still at the farm when Mr Tuttle visited. According to Mr Tuttle their health was excellent, each one of the elephants had individual collars and check-ups, and they were managed by elephant keepers, special dentists, and the veterinairy university of Gainesville.
The jet set days ended when Jones and Thayer divorced in 1989. They donated their animals to parks and zoos, and put Jumbolair on the market with Sotheby's auction house for $11.2-million, but Thayer bought out her ex-husband's interest in the land and in 1995 began to plan an aviation community for celebrites.
Today Jumbolair Aviation Estates is home of the worlds largest, FAA licensed, lighted and paved, private airport, and one member of the community is John Travolta.