Jones, 85, died Sunday in Baton Rouge

Published 3:40 am Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Theodore L. “Ted” Jones, a tomato farmer and attorney who became a major figure in state and national politics, passed away from heart failure at his home in Baton Rouge on Sunday. Jones also maintained a home and farm in Washington Parish.

Jones was a guitar player who served as a musician for the gubernatorial campaigns of Earl Long and Jimmie Davis, and also served as an advisor for current Gov. John Bel Edwards in his 2015 campaign.

For at least 50 years, Jones helped to organize the “Washington Mardi Gras” in the nation’s capital.

Jones grew up with his grandparents on a farm in Tifton, Ga., but made frequent trips to Louisiana to visit his father in New Iberia. At the age of 14, Jones joined the band that warmed up audiences for Long during his 1948 governor’s race. Jones continued to perform for Long through his re-election in 1956.

Jones spent about 50 years playing guitar in the band that performed with Davis, who was a popular singer and songwriter. Davis served two terms as governor — from 1944 to 1948, and from 1960 to 1964.

Jones enjoyed playing his guitar but also soon began to dabble more in politics, even beyond the band stage. In 1962, he began working as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., specializing in tax laws for the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

In the 1980s, he began teaching at Southern University in Baton Rouge, and served as special counsel to Gov. Edwin Edwards. He also was the general counsel to the Louisiana Democratic Party, a position he held for 24 years.

Perhaps Jones’ most lasting legacy is the Washington Mardi Gras. In the late 1960s, he became one of the five Senior Lieutenants of the Mystick Krewe of Louisianians — the group that organizes the annual Mardi Gras gathering. He also served as the krewe’s counsel and treasurer for decades.

In 2018, Louisiana Public Broadcasting honored Jones as a “Louisiana Legend.” He was inducted into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame in 2007, and later became its board chairman.

Jones earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Northwestern State with special studies in accounting and economics in 1960. He received a Juris Doctorate at the University of Mississippi in 1963 and a Master of Laws in Taxation from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1970.

Although Jones spent much time in the state’s capital and the nation’s capital, he never forgot his Washington Parish heritage. It was common for him to deliver friends bushels of tomatoes that he had harvested at his farm.

And according to a story in the Advocate of Baton Rogue, Jones enjoyed breakfast at the Golden Pear restaurant in Bogalusa on Saturday morning, just one day before his passing.

Jones is survived by his sons, Ted and Claude; his third wife, Carmen; and four grandchildren.

Edwards spoke glowingly of Jones in a statement released Sunday.

“Today we lost a legend in Ted Jones, a fixture in Louisiana politics who launched his career from the stage of the Louisiana Hayride and then for more than six decades walked the halls of the State Capitol, worked in the Congress and led the Mystick Krewe of Louisianians as it brought the spirit of Mardi Gras to Washington, D.C.,” he said. “Over the course of his career, he served as a confidant and adviser to senators, congressmen and governors, myself included.

“I will forever be grateful to Ted for his counsel and confidence and his love and vision for Louisiana. Please join Donna and me in prayer for Ted’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

Edwards ordered all flags over the State Capitol and state buildings to be flown at half-staff in honor of Jones.

As of press time, funeral arrangements were pending.