Ted Jones, 'political legend,' has yarns to tell

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

Ted Jones A politician and a picker
"I've been keenly aware of Louisiana Politics since 1944 when I first met Governor Earl K. Long," Ted Jones told the Piney Woods Journal. "Governor Long was visiting one of his staunch supporters in New Iberia where my father owned a soft drink bottling company. I remember my daddy giving Mr. Earl $1,000 which I thought was an absolute fortune at the time."

"Later on in life, as a young man I campaigned for Uncle Earl. He was all that he has been portrayed as and then some. Uncle Earl was a truly 'bigger than life' character in the true meaning of those who have made a difference in Louisiana."

Theodore "Ted" Jones was awarded the "Friends of Uncle Earl" award at the 2002 Political Hall of Fame Induction Banquet in Winnfield. In 2003, Ted Jones was the recipient of the "Friends of Jimmy Davis" award. In addition to be politically connected with Governor Davis, Ted Jones was also a long-time member of the Jimmy Davis Band.

"The last time I saw Governor Davis alive was when Al Harris and I went over to visit him a few days before he died. We told the Governor that we had come to play and sing for him. He said that it was okay with him. Al got on the piano and I took out my guitar. The Governor sang a little bit with us when we did, 'You are my Sunshine.' He was a good man and great man."

Ted Jones was born in Tifton, Georgia on May 21, 1934. How Jones even got to Louisiana, let alone became a fixture in Louisiana Politics for more than 50 years, is a story within itself.

"By the time I graduated from Ocilla High School in 1951, I was pretty sure I would be Governor of Georgia by 1966. When I told my dad my plans, his response was that if I wanted to do that, I needed to become a Georgia farmer by planting 20 acres of tomatos on my grand-dad's property in Georgia. I did that and got hooked on raising tomatoes."

"I've been raising tomatoes on my place in Washington Parish for several years now, but this year is probably going to be my last year growing tomatoes. I was hoping that by putting in a big tomato crop each year in Washington Parish, I would get other people hooked on growing tomatoes and we might get someone interested in putting in a canning plant in the area."

After completing high school in 1951, young Ted Jones enrolled in Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton where he studied until the end of 1953. In 1954, Jones made a turn from Georgia politics by joining the United States Air Force. It was this move that first brought him to Louisiana.

Jones was stationed at what was then England Air Force Base in Alexandria for a couple of years. It was at that point that he decided he would enroll at LSU after getting out of the Air Force in 1958.

"I went down to LSU to talk to them about transferring my credits from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College to LSU," Jones recalled. "LSU wouldn't take all my course hours from Georgia. One of the guys advised me to go to a Junior College; another guy at the Registrar's office advised me to enroll at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches where my course work from Georgia would be accepted."

"I was familiar with Northwestern State College (as it was known then) from my days of being stationed at England Air Force Base. It worked out good for me going to Northwestern. I got a B.S. Degree in Business Administration in 1960. I really focused in on Accounting and Economics classes. While I was stationed at England AFB, I had a guy in my unit that kept telling me what a great place the University of Mississippi was and what an outstanding Law School they had. After I finished at Northwestern, I decided to check out Ole Miss Law. I did and liked what I saw. I got my Juris Doctorate law degree from Ole Miss in 1963 at the age of 29."

It was at that point that Jones' career made a U-turn back to Louisiana.

"I was practicing law in Colfax, Louisiana when I met Speedy O. Long who was a State Senator at the time. Speedy was thinking about running for Congress from the old 8th Louisiana Congressional in Central Louisiana in which Uncle Earl had been elected Congressman in his last political race. I signed on with the Speedy Long Law Firm and when he ran for Congress, I was right in the middle of it. I was Chief of Staff in Congress for Speedy in 1965," Jones related. "I remember the afternoon of March 31, 1965 because I was the only one in the office late that afternoon when the call came in that Congressman Ashton Thompson had been killed in a car accident in North Carolina. It wasn't very long after I got the call about Congressman Thompson who represented the 7th district down in Southwest Louisiana, that I got a call from Governor John McKeithen. He wanted to talk with Speedy but Speedy was in Vietnam doing an investigation into the problems with the M1 carbine the soldiers were using at the time. Governor McKeithen told me that as soon as Speedy gets back from Vietnam, you boys come down to Baton Rouge and help me get Edwin Edwards elected to Congress in the 7th district."

While Jones was in Washington DC working with Congressman Speedy Long in 1970, he worked on a Master's of Laws degree in Taxation in. It was in this field of taxation law that Jones excelled in and soon became known as an elite national tax lawyer that opened up numerous high profile positions for Jones.

In 1965, before obtaining his Masters in Taxation Law, Jones was Special Counsel to the U.S. Senator's Medicare Research Team. From 1966 to 1969, Jones was Counsel to Governor John McKeithen, including a time when he focused on the new Medicare laws exclusively. In 1968, Jones was on the Presidential Campaign Staff of Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

However, no matter how far up the legal taxation ladder he climbed or the political connections Jones made, he never laid down his guitar.

"Music and playing a guitar was my fun time," Jones related. "It still is today, and I intend to keep playing and singing until I can't do it any longer. My style of playing is what is known as thumb-picking style that Chet Atkins and others made famous."

In 1999, Ted Jones was inducted in the Thumb-Pickers Hall of Fame in Muhlenberg County Kentucky. In 2000, Jones received the Muhlenberg Sound Award.

In Jones' time in Washington DC, he played a key role in what led up to the Watergate Break-in that brought down the Presidency of Richard Nixon.

"I did some taxation work for a tax-shelter that involved land here in Baton Rouge on Corporate Blvd in the late 1970s," Jones recalled. "One of the guys involved was Larry Fitzgerald who worked for Howard Hughes at the time. Fitzgerald later became the head of the Democratic Party in the early 1970s."

"While he was with Hughes, Hughes made a loan of a $100,000 to President Richard Nixon's brother. Once Fitzgerald became head of the Democratic National Party, President Nixon got nervous because of the possibility that Fitzgerald would reveal the loan from Hughes to Nixon's brother. I do know for a fact that the IRS went after Fitzgerald with both feet. They zeroed in on the tax-shelter here in Baton Rouge that I had set up for the Fitzgerald group. The IRS could not find any problem with any of my tax work, including the way I had sat up the nominees for the Board of Directors. Nixon even changed IRS Chiefs when they couldn't find anything wrong on Fitzgerald's tax returns. I don't have any doubt that the reason that Fitzgerald's office in the Watergate Towers was broken into, was to try and find out if Fitzgerald had any paper work about the $100,000 loan from Hughes to Nixons."

"This is one of the many things I call TEDOLOGY. They are things that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt in my mind, that I've observed happen in my political career in Washington and Baton Rouge, but don't have definite proof of them happening," Jones said in conclusion.