Community leader Bill ‘Skeet’ Jones dies

A military man, civic leader, community philanthropist, auctioneer and more, Bill “Skeet” Jones died Monday at his home.

He was 93.

Born in Hawkins County, the youngest of nine, Jones moved with his family to Hamblen County when he was just 4 weeks old.

Growing up he lived in the same neighborhood as Jean Wolfe but it wasn’t until much later when he went to the courthouse where she was working that a romantic spark kindled and Jean Wolfe became Jean Jones. The couple celebrated 66 years together.

Jones was a successful auctioneer and real estate man, lending his talents to the Boys & Girls Club’s annual Super Auction.

John Seals, Club president, said Jones’ spirit and enthusiasm was infectious.

“He was instrumental in the success of our auction over the years,” Seals said. “He brought an energy and excitement to his time here at the club and made a lasting contribution. He left a true legacy at the club. He helped thousands of young people here over the years.”

As a young man, Jones followed his three brothers into the service.

Jones served during the Korean Conflict in the Air Force, during which he served stateside working on heavy equipment. His brother Fred was in the Navy, Burkett was in the Seabees Construction Battalion and Jake was in the Marines.

“There were four of us boys and we all volunteered for service,” Jones told the Tribune. “Each one of us was in a different branch. Jake was the one who had it the worst since he was a Marine and was at Iwo Jima. My brothers were all in WWII. We all got back safely.

“I was in the Air Force. I did not want to walk. I wanted to fly,” he added.

Jones told the Tribune about the day that he volunteered for service.

“I decided I would volunteer because my brothers did too,” Skeet said. “They sent me right on to Knoxville to get my physical. I stood in line and listened to all of those guys tell the doctors about all of their problems. They thought they would be kicked out and would not have to go. When my turn came, the doctor asked what was wrong with me. I said ‘That’s your job doc.’ Then he called for the next in line and sent me through.”

He owned Cherokee Real Estate and Auction Company until his retirement, and he volunteered his services as an auctioneer for many community and civic organizations over the years, including the Boys’ & Girls’ Club, Girls Inc., Hamblen Co. 4-H Club, Ducks Unlimited, Wild Turkey Federation and Hamblen County Republican Women.

He was a member of Masons Lodge #23 and the Kerbela Shrine for over 60 years; a 50+ year member and past E.R. of Elks Lodge #1667 as well as State Chaplain; an Honorary Trustee of the WSCC Foundation; a 50+ year member and Past President of Morristown Kiwanis Club; and was active in industrial recruitment with the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce for a number of years.

Fellow Kiwanian Gary Matthews said Jones left a lasting impact.

“If you were around Skeet, you had fun,” Matthews said. “He was just a jovial guy, someone you just like to be around. He will be sorely missed. He would light up our club, He was just a joy to be around.

“He left his footprints all over the city.”

Jones said his interest in politics likely came from his father who was road superintendent. His dad – who also gave his youngest son the nickname Skeet – would ride the roads and talk to people and sometimes Skeet would come along.

It was Jones’ participation in the Kiwanis Club and a scheduling error that led to his friendship and political support of Winfield Dunn, Tennessee’s governor from 1971 to 1975.

It was February of 1969 when Jones attended a club meeting at the Holiday Inn. Speaking to the Oral History Research Office of the University of Memphis for a 1976 project on the Dunn administration, Jones said the club had failed to secure a speaker for the meeting. Dunn, who was scheduled to speak at the Lincoln Day dinner that night, was at the hotel and agreed to pinch hit as the club’s guest speaker.

“I was moved by the way that he spoke – the sincerity and honesty and the projection and what have you,” he said.

Skeet and Jean attended the Lincoln Day dinner that night.

“We were very much interested in him,” he said. “This interest grew.”

A Republican hadn’t been elected governor in Tennessee for 50 years when Dunn’s office asked Jones to be the Campaign Manager for East Tennessee. When Dunn himself called and asked Jones to take the position, he accepted.

The Joneses – Jean was instrumental in the campaign organization as well – used his auctioneer speakers mounted atop a car to travel the region stumping for the candidate. They organized rallies and their own version of a whistle stop tour – without the train – to raise Dunn’s profile in East Tennessee.

The Joneses’ efforts played a key part in Dunn winning the primary as well as the general election.

Jones only used his influence with the newly elected governor for one thing: He wanted the East High Band to march in the inaugural parade and when someone else on the governor’s staff left the band off the list, Jones made sure they got to march.

The family will receive friends in the East Chapel of Allen Funeral Home from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 2. Funeral services will follow the visitation at 7 p.m., with Rev. Mark Holland and Rev. Smokey Oats officiating. Interment will be held at 11 a.m. in Bethesda Cemetery on Friday, Dec. 3.

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