Jones was a special gift for our state

Published 3:28 am Saturday, September 14, 2019

A massive oak stands behind our backyard today.

It has stood there for well over 300 years, long before we got here, and will likely be there for the next 600 or so, long after we are all gone.

It’s a reminder to me every waking day of how our allotted time here on earth is so very short.

Yet there are some among us, whose lives span only that of a small portion of this giant living monument, people of oak-like enduring significance, having lived life so well that we are left with the same sense of awe and inspiration.

So was the life of Theodore “Ted” Jones.

I’ve read and reread his obituary, and marveled at the range and scope of this amazing Louisiana political legend. But it is the man, my dearest friend, this man who navigated his complex life with such grace and humanity, who challenges the rest of us to remember him and all he embodied.

Ted never held public elective office in our state, yet he was a hugely impactful player in practically every administration and every Washington delegation since the heyday of Earl K. Long.

He possessed this unrivaled ability to move through them all, regardless of their politics, whether with his banjo and guitar, or dressed in a costume at a Washington Mardi Gras celebration, or with the students in a classroom at his beloved Northwestern, or, remarkably, with his great depth of knowledge of tax and regulatory law; and, as was his passion, with skillfully helping to guide governors and U.S. senators and members of Congress through their most tumultuous years, and through one more election season after another. He actually played a role in 175 elections, for candidates as local as Justice of the Peace all the way to president of the United States. How he managed that remains somewhat of a mystery.

Yet, though he moved among Louisiana giants like Earl and Russell Long, John McKeithen, Jimmy Davis and Edwin Edwards, he was always just “Ted Jones, lawyer.” A simple man of humble beginnings who dared to dream big, but never considered himself bigger than anyone blessed to know him; to work with him, to hunt and fish with him, and to thrill at his marvelous stories that spanned a near-century of Louisiana political intrigue, fun and foibles.

Ted was most of all such a caring soul, always at the ready to cancel his own plans to serve the plans of others; always ready to “pass it forward” for all the kindnesses and opportunities others afforded him.

Like that great sturdy oak, he lives on in the hearts of many of us. And like the prized tomatoes Ted raised on his little “pea patch” of a farm, he leaves us with a prayer that we, too, might ripen into the lovely human that he became.

As inspiring as it may be to see this sturdy live oak each day, it’s even more instructive to have known and loved someone who did it right. Someone, somehow, always a little better than the rest of us, though that never really occurred to him. I thank God for Ted Jones. He was a special gift in our lives.

And he is a reminder to all of us how to live our own.

Billy Tauzin,

former U.S. congressman