Died: July 26, 2016
John M. Jones, III, a beloved husband, father, and friend, and the publisher of The Greeneville Sun since 1974, completed his life's journey on Tuesday. He was 101.
Mr. Jones was a man noted for his honesty, his energy, his kindness, his manly strength and courage, and a deep, lifelong desire to pursue what he believed to be the common good.
He died peacefully and with family present on Tuesday afternoon at Laughlin Healthcare Center, where he had been undergoing treatment for three weeks for a broken bone in his left upper arm.
He had hoped to return home in several weeks when therapy was complete. As a result of other health issues, however, his condition unexpectedly worsened on Sunday.
ELDEST OF FOUR SONS
Born Dec. 11, 1914, in Sweetwater, Tenn., he was the eldest of the four sons of Oliver King Jones and Mary Byrd Browder Jones, of Sweetwater.
He was named for his grandfather, John Martin Jones, and an uncle. Although, strictly speaking, he was John M. Jones III, he almost always signed his name simply John M. Jones, and was known as "John M."
His parents were devout Presbyterian Christians who reared him to love the Lord and try to follow and please Him, be a man of his word, work hard and give his best effort in anything he undertook, and do all that he could to serve others and his community and nation.
He also grew up with a deep appreciation for history, including the history of his own family.
The grandfather for whom he was named had been a Virginian and a captain in the Confederate Army.
His grandmother, Martha Jane Tipton Jones, of Elizabethton, was a descendant of noted Upper East Tennessee pioneer John Tipton.
After the Civil War, his grandfather established a chain of hardware stores in East Tennessee and ultimately settled in Sweetwater, in Monroe County.
The elder Jones was very entrepreneurial, and became successful in Monroe County in a variety of enterprises, including not only hardware, but also banking, textile manufacturing, and other businesses.
His son Oliver King Jones -- the father of John M. -- was also skilled and successful in business, and John M. Jones himself began to learn entrepreneurship by raising a vegetable garden at his home and selling the produce from a stand as a pre-teenager.
He graduated from what was then Tennessee Military Academy, in Sweetwater, and went on to Washington & Lee University, which he quickly came to love.
When his family experienced severe financial reverses in the Great Depression, he found jobs at Washington & Lee to help finance his education there, including the role of guide in the Robert E. Lee Chapel.
After receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in history from W&L as a member of the Class of 1937, he worked for a time in advertising in Richmond, Va., then took a position managing outdoor advertising for Gilman Paint Co., of Chattanooga, which was owned by some of his Jones relatives.
On June 29, 1940, he married the former Martha Arnold (Arne) Susong, of Greeneville, at St. James Episcopal Church here.
A little more than a month ago, the couple -- both 101 years of age at the time -- marked their 76th anniversary together. They had three sons and two daughters.
MERRILL'S MARAUDERS SERVICE
Mr. Jones was called into active duty with the U.S. Army in December 1941 after the Imperial Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and went on to serve in the Army for the next four years.
During World War II, he served as an Infantry officer, including service in the China-Burma-India theatre of the war during 1944 and 1945.
He served as an Intelligence officer on the regimental staff of Brig. Gen. Frank D. Merrill in the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), which became widely known as "Merrill's Marauders."
The 3,000-man volunteer regiment was a long-range penetration force which operated successfully for some six months behind Japanese lines in Burma from February-August 1944.
Merrill's Marauders was the first American infantry unit to fight in Asia during World War II, and, after the war, provided the modern model for the U.S. Army Rangers and the U.S. Army Special Forces.
A journal kept by then-Capt. Jones during several months of the Marauders campaign became a very important record of the campaign and has been a major source of information on the regiment's service.
The diary, together with numerous photos and maps pertaining to the campaign, has been published by the Merrill's Marauders Association as "The War Diary of the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional)."
In the 1990s, Jones collaborated with Dr. James E. T. Hopkins, a battalion surgeon in the Marauders, in a 772-page book on the campaign that was published in 1999 under the title Spearhead: A Complete History of Merrill's Marauders Rangers.
In the summer of 2015, Mr. Jones and his family were notified by an Association representative that he (Jones), who was 100 at the time, was believed to be the oldest surviving original member of Merrill's Marauders.
Following the Marauders campaign, then-Capt. Jones became aide-de-camp to Lt. Gen. Raymond A. Wheeler of the U.S. Army, India-Burma theatre commander, and also American aide-de-camp to Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, commanding officer of the Southeast Asia Command.
Jones received the Bronze Star and the Soldier's Medal for actions during his military service, and left active duty in December 1945 with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
DID NOT PLAN NEWSPAPER CAREER
Following his military service, he had not intended to enter the newspaper business, in which he had no experience.
But he agreed to give it a try at the strong request of his mother-in-law, the late Edith O'Keefe Susong, who had been publisher of The Greeneville Sun and its predecessor newspapers here since 1916.
He accepted the position of business manager, including a primary focus on advertising, and quickly discovered that he found newspaper work -- not only the advertising side but also the news and public service aspects -- both fulfilling and enjoyable.
As a result, he and his wife bought a half-ownership in the Sun. He succeeded Mrs. Susong as publisher at her death in 1974.
He has continued to hold that position, although, for health reasons, he has not been able to be active in the management of the paper for more than 10 years.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Mr. Jones, working with Mrs. Susong in a very strong and effective partnership, helped the Sun grow dramatically as Greeneville and Greene County grew.
In addition, beginning in 1960, he played the primary leadership role in expanding the family's newspaper interests to include community newspapers in several other East Tennessee towns, including Newport, Athens, Loudon/Lenoir City, Sweetwater/Monroe County, Dayton, and Rogersville.
The company has in recent years become Jones Media, Inc., consisting of community daily newspapers in Greeneville, Maryville and Athens and non-daily newspapers in Newport, Rogersville, Lenoir City, Sweetwater, Dayton, and the High Country of western North Carolina, including Boone, as well as other media-related enterprises.
Over the years, Mr. Jones agreed to take on on numerous state, regional and national leadership roles in the newspaper industry.
He served as president of the Tennessee Press Association in 1962-63. He also served as a member of the boards of directors of both the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association and the American Newspaper Publishers Association (now the Newspaper Association of America).
In addition, in the 1980s he was elected to three 3-year terms, the maximum, as a member of the board of directors of the Associated Press, the world's largest newsgathering body.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INTEREST
Meanwhile, in Greeneville/Greene County itself, beginning in the late 1940s he took a particular interest in economic development and local job growth for some 50 years as a volunteer.
He was very influential in the decisions of several industries to locate plants in Greeneville/Greene County.
Over the years he often worked with others in the Greene County Foundation, of which he was a strong supporter from its founding days in the 1940s.
He was also active in what was then the Greeneville/Greene County Chamber of Commerce and the Greene County Economic Development Board.
He chaired the Greeneville Industrial Development Bond Board for many years.
His major role in bringing Greene Valley Developmental Center to Greene County was recognized in December 2000 when the GVDC Administrative Building was renamed in his honor.
The presentation had been a well-kept secret and was unexpected by Mr. Jones, who was present for a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of the institution.
A resolution by the GVDC Board of Trustees stated that he "was the primary influence for the location of a developmental center in Greene County."
Beginning in the late 1940s and early 1950s, he also became active as a citizen and volunteer in the more conservative wing of the Tennessee Democratic Party.
He was a strong backer of the reform candidacy of former FBI agent Frank G. Clement when Clement ran successfully for governor in the early 1950s.
He continued in future years to support the political careers of Clement and also Buford Ellington, a Clement ally who served as governor after Clement.
Mr. Jones was a friend and political ally of the late Herbert "Hub" Walters of Morristown, a major conservative Democratic leader in East Tennessee and the state at a time when the Republican Party was not an effective statewide force in Tennessee.
Mr. Jones attended the 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964 and 1968 Democratic National Conventions as a Tennessee delegate, and became acquainted with some prominent state and national party leaders including, for instance, Ned Ray McWherter at the state level, and Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter at the national level.
He was not active in Democratic political work after the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
During the same years, through his local, state and national newspaper activities, he gradually became acquainted with a number of leading Republican figures as well.
These included U.S. Rep. James H. "Jimmy" Quillen, U.S. Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr., Governors Winfield Dunn and Don Sundquist, and Lamar Alexander, a Baker aide who himself went on to become a two-term Tennessee governor, a U.S. Secretary of Education, and a multi-term U.S. Senator.
In many instances, Mr. Jones' wide network of friendships with political leaders of both parties helped him achieve goals -- such as the state decision to locate Greene Valley Developmental Center here -- that benefited Greeneville and Greene County economically.
ROLE IN TBI FOUNDING
His involvement in political activity was a key asset in the effort that he considered his most important public achievement: helping establish, then improve, what became the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
After the shocking murder of James Lutz in Greene County in 1949 and mistakes by local law enforcement agencies that led to the murder's being unsolved, Jones concluded that Tennessee badly needed an FBI-type agency at the state level to assist local law enforcement agencies in the investigation of serious and/or complex crimes.
Under his leadership, the Tennessee Press Association campaigned successfully for the creation of such an agency in the early 1950s.
Originally known as the Tennessee Bureau of Criminal Investigation when established under the administration of then-Governor Gordon Browning, the agency was over the years removed from the Department of Safety and professionalized as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
In the effort to strengthen and professionalize the TBI, Mr. Jones often drew on his strong friendships with key state Democratic leaders such as Gov. Clement, Gov. Ellington, and Ned McWherter, who became a powerful Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives and later a two-term governor.
In recognition of Mr. Jones's key role in the creation and development of the TBI, when the agency moved into a new headquarters in Nashville in 2000, he was asked by then-TBI Director Larry Wallace to be one of the featured speakers at the dedication of the building.
His role in the establishment of the agency is recognized in the lobby of the headquarters.
Mr. Jones also served as the first president of the Greene County Heritage Trust and took a major role in a number of its projects including the restoration of the Doak House at Tusculum College.
He was one of the founding leaders of the United Way of Greene County in the late 1950s, and served as board of directors president in 1959, the local United Way's first campaign year.
He continued to be a strong supporter of the local United Way and has served as a co-chairman of the UW's Pillar program since it was initiated.
Jones was also a very active volunteer in fund-raising work for the Sequoyah Council, Boy Scouts of America, and was honored with the Silver Beaver award for outstanding volunteer service to the council.
He played a key role in fund-raising efforts both for the construction of the new (current) YMCA in the mid-1970s, and, later, for the retirement of its debt.
He has received numerous honors locally for community service and leadership, including the Greeneville Exchange Club Book of Golden Deeds (1984), the Dr. L.E. Coolidge Award for Humanitarian Services (1989), and the Robert C. Austin Award for Distinguished Service to the Community (1994).
In 1994 Mr. Jones was named one of the five charter inductees into the Tri-Cities Tennessee/Virginia Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame, which honors regional leaders for outstanding achievement in business and public service.
He was also honored in 2002 at a special Greene County Partnership event at the General Morgan Inn titled "An Evening To Say Thank You."
The event was co-chaired by Scott Niswonger and Terry Leonard, in cooperation with then-GCP Chairman Rebecca Cutshaw.
Throughout his career Mr. Jones was a strong supporter of Greene County agriculture and, in particular, of the University of Tennessee Tobacco Experiment Station (now the University of Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center).
In addition to his civic work in Greeneville/Greene County and Northeast Tennessee, higher education was one of his major interests, and he was one of the original members of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
He also served for many years as the vice-chairman of the Tennessee Historical Commission.
His public service, in education and in a variety of other areas of activity, was recognized in the 1980s by Washington & Lee, which named him the university's distinguished alumnus for that year.
NOT ALWAYS 'IN MOTION'
Between his professional responsibilities in the newspaper field and his extensive involvement in volunteer public service, Mr. Jones was typically "a man in motion."
But he was also devoted to his family, and to his faith, and made time for both of them.
From the late 1940s to the mid-1990s, he was an active layman at St. James Episcopal Church, and he remained a faithful attendee as long as his health permitted.
He also took great pleasure in casual recreation such as annual family beach vacations to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and other family trips; occasional rounds of golf; and poker or bridge games with friends.
Survivors include, in addition to his wife of 76 years: three sons and their wives: John M. Jones IV (Helena) of Greeneville, Alex S. Jones of Charleston, S.C., and New York City, and Gregg K. Jones (Katharine) of Greeneville; two daughters and their husbands: Edith Jones Floyd (Stephen) of Atlanta, Ga., and Sarah Jones Harbison (Steven), of Greeneville; seven grandchildren: Anne O'Keefe Harbison and Quincy Marshall Harbison, both of Atlanta, John Mason Harbison of Greeneville, Alexander Jones Floyd and William O'Keefe Floyd, both of Atlanta, Geoffrey D. Gill (Gina), of Atlanta, and Christopher P. Gill (Elizabeth), of Waxhaw, N.C.; and a number of great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Mr. Jones was preceded in death by his three brothers: O.K. Jones Jr., Newton B. Jones and Jackson T. Jones.
The family will receive friends from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. Friday at St. James Episcopal Church .
The funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at St. James Church, with interment to follow at Oak Grove Cemetery. The Rev. Chris Starr, interim rector of St. James, will officiate at the services.
Military honors will also be provided at the graveside by the Greene County Honor Guard and U.S. Army Rangers from the 5th Ranger Training Brigade, Camp Frank D. Merrill, Dahlonega, Ga.
Active pallbearers will be: Ralph Baldwin Jr., John E. Cash, Dale Long, Bruce Morrison, Joe Officer, Jerry Ottinger, David Popiel, Wayne Phillips and Artie Wehenkel.
Honorary pallbearers will be the current and former staff of The Greeneville Sun and Jones Media, Inc.; his caregivers: Lisa Bradenburg, Renee Morelock, Cathy Myers, Sherry Barkley, Diana Motter, Linda Branch, Samantha Morelock, Peggy Hayes and Bobbi Jo Nawracaj; Dr. Tom Beckner, Terry Bellamy, Kent Bewley, Rebecca Cutshaw, Tom Ferguson, Tom Garland Sr., Mark Gwyn, Charles Hutchins, Sam and Betty Kennedy, Bob King, Terry Leonard, former Greeneville Mayor Tom Love, Sonny Marsh, Scott Niswonger, Jim Powell, and Larry Wallace.
The family suggests that those who would like to make a memorial gift consider St. James Episcopal Church (107 W. Church St., Greeneville, TN 37743), Washington & Lee University (www.wlu.edu or 204 W. Washington St., Lexington, VA 24450), or a charity of the donor's choice.
Doughty-Stevens Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.