The Obit For Jack Jones

Former South Charleston fire chief dies

WVGazette.com, November 13, 2009

By Rusty Marks, Staff writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Well-known athlete and former South Charleston Fire Chief Jack Lee Jones has died.

Jones, who played professional baseball for the New York Giants' and the Detroit Tigers' AAA farm teams and who served as South Charleston's fire chief in the late 1970s and early 1980s, died Tuesday, Nov. 10, at Oak Ridge Center in Charleston. He was 74.

"He was a no-nonsense kind of guy," remembered Barbara Jones, Jack Jones' former wife and the mother of his children. "You know the kind of authoritarian folks that we used to know? He was pretty serious about it."

A hulking, 6-foot-5-inch giant of a man, "He never pretended to be anything other than what he was," Barbara Jones said. "He loved his athletics, he loved his family and he loved his bridge [game]."

Colleagues recall Jones as a strong athlete and sometimes opinionated fire chief. "He was one heck of a golfer," remembered current South Charleston Fire Chief Jim Wood, who joined the fire department under Jones' watch.

"I've got a soft spot for him because he hired me," Wood said.

As fire chief, Jones began a program that would see every South Charleston firefighter cross-trained as an emergency medical technician. Wood was already an EMT when he joined the fire department, but said, "Once you got hired, they put you through EMT school." South Charleston City Council would eventually make it mandatory that all firefighters also be trained EMTs.

Jones, a 1953 graduate of Stonewall Jackson High School, was a former pitcher for the Charleston Senators baseball team, coached baseball and officiated football, baseball and basketball games at the secondary and college levels.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Well-known athlete and former South Charleston Fire Chief Jack Lee Jones has died.
Jones, who played professional baseball for the New York Giants' and the Detroit Tigers' AAA farm teams and who served as South Charleston's fire chief in the late 1970s and early 1980s, died Tuesday, Nov. 10, at Oak Ridge Center in Charleston. He was 74.

"He was a no-nonsense kind of guy," remembered Barbara Jones, Jack Jones' former wife and the mother of his children. "You know the kind of authoritarian folks that we used to know? He was pretty serious about it."

A hulking, 6-foot-5-inch giant of a man, "He never pretended to be anything other than what he was," Barbara Jones said. "He loved his athletics, he loved his family and he loved his bridge [game]."

Colleagues recall Jones as a strong athlete and sometimes opinionated fire chief. "He was one heck of a golfer," remembered current South Charleston Fire Chief Jim Wood, who joined the fire department under Jones' watch.

"I've got a soft spot for him because he hired me," Wood said.

As fire chief, Jones began a program that would see every South Charleston firefighter cross-trained as an emergency medical technician. Wood was already an EMT when he joined the fire department, but said, "Once you got hired, they put you through EMT school." South Charleston City Council would eventually make it mandatory that all firefighters also be trained EMTs.

Jones, a 1953 graduate of Stonewall Jackson High School, was a former pitcher for the Charleston Senators baseball team, coached baseball and officiated football, baseball and basketball games at the secondary and college levels.

Former South Charleston Mayor Richie Robb said he first met Jones while Robb was in high school.

"I was a catcher," Robb recalled, and Jones was coaching pitchers. Robb later worked with Jones after being elected mayor in 1975.

"He served about 10 years," Robb said.

As fire chief, Robb said Jones and he did not always see eye to eye. "In retrospect, he did a commendable job as fire chief," Robb said.

Jones would eventually serve as president of the Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs. He was a member of the Kanawha Valley Football and Basketball Officials and Umpires Associations and volunteered for the American Red Cross and CAMC Memorial Hospital. A bridge player, he also competed in state, regional and national bridge tournaments, achieving the rank of Bronze Life Master.

"He was a larger-than-life kind of person," remembered Catherine Graceson, one of Jones' two daughters. "We were raised on baseball, and we're still baseball fans today.

"I'm going to miss him."

Snodgrass Funeral Home, South Charleston, is in charge of arrangements.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.