During and after his 15-year stint as a state representative for District 86, Rufus Jones was considered by many of his colleagues as “a ready and willing source of reliable and sound advice.” On Sunday Mr. Jones passed at age 79.
“Rufus Jones was such a good representative in the House,” said State Rep. Barbara Cooper, who now represents District 86. “And Rufus opened doors for a lot of people, and every body loved him because he was a kind man. He was committed to his constituents in a way that was rare.”
Cooper succeeded Mr. Jones when he vacated his seat in 1986 to run for Congress after Harold Ford Sr. announced that he would not run again.
“He lost to Harold Ford Jr. in that election, but he never stopped working for his community and his people,” Cooper said. “We are all saddened, and he will be sorely missed.”
WDIA Radio personality Mark Stansbury recalled that Mr. Jones and his father ran Jones Big Star that was located in that 900 block of McLemore Ave., across from Stax Recording Studio.
“They also ran another grocery store out there on Mitchell Road. Rufus Jones, as long as we have known him, was always involved in his community and concerned about the people he served, whether it was as a business man or a state representative,” Stansbury said. “He leaves a beautiful legacy behind.”
Rufus Jones was born August 21, 1940 and grew up in the southwest Memphis community of Boxtown. He learned the grocery business from the ground up from his father.
He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and Michigan State University. When he returned home, Mr. Jones developed an interest in politics and decided to run for the 86th District of the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1980, succeeding his childhood friend, Emmitt Ford, who encouraged Jones to seek elected office and helped in his bid.
He was married to retired Memphis City Schools teacher, Marvis Kneeland-Jones, who was one of the Memphis State Eight, the African-American students who broke the color barrier at the University of Memphis in 1959.
Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators Chairman G. A. Hardaway released a statement regarding Jones’ passing:
“…Rufus E. Jones served as a ready and willing source of reliable and sound advice for myself and other legislators…we were allowed to learn from an excellent exemplar of personal conduct, professional success, and civic leadership.”
Mr. Jones had suffered with several health issues in recent years and died from natural cause.
Funeral services are set on Saturday, with more details are forthcoming from Edmund Ford Mortuary, which has charge.