Robert E. Jones, 1975 Robert Emmett “Bob” Jones Jr. (1912-1997) was a conservative Democratic congressman from north Alabama who has thus far had the longest service record of any member of Congress from the state. During his tenure, which lasted from 1947 until 1977, Jones supported the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) as well as public works and waterway programs, especially with the Tennessee Valley Authority, and served on the House Public Works and Transportation Committee and the Governmental Operations Committee. Before becoming a congressman, Jones was a lawyer and judge and served in the U.S. Navy in World War II. He was among the southern Democrats who signed the “Southern Manifesto” opposing school integration and opposed all civil rights legislation in Congress.
Robert Emmett Jones Jr. was born in Scottsboro, Jackson County, on June 12, 1912, to Robert Emmett Jones and Augusta Smith Jones; he was the youngest of five children. He attended public schools in Jackson County. On January 7, 1937, Jones graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law. In 1938, he married Christine Francis Jones, and the couple would have one son. Jones practiced law in Scottsboro until 1940, when he was elected judge of the Jackson County Circuit Court. In 1943, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served as a gunnery officer from December 1943 until February 1944, in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of World War II. He was re-elected to his judgeship in 1945 while serving overseas in the military and served until October 1946.
In 1947, Congressman John J. Sparkman resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives in order to run for a seat representing Alabama in the U.S. Senate. As a result, a special election was called to fill Sparkman’s seat for the Eighth District. Jones won the election and served until 1963. Following the 1960 Census, Alabama’s number of representatives was reduced from nine to eight. As a result, in 1963 Jones and the other Alabama representatives were elected at-large until the Alabama legislature completed reapportioning the districts in 1965. That year, Jones was re-elected again to represent the Eighth District. In 1973, Alabama’s district lines were again redrawn, and Jones’s seat was changed to the Fifth District.
Bob Jones Jr. and Wernher von Braun During his tenure in Congress, Jones sponsored major legislation focused on public works. He cosponsored legislation dealing with water and land preservation issues, the aerospace industry (especially NASA’s missile program at Redstone Arsenal), and rural economic development. In 1949, he coauthored the Accelerated Public Works Act to increase federal works projects and economic growth. Jones coauthored the Interstate Highway Act of 1956, which was part of the Federal-Aid Highway Program that created the interstate highway system connecting rural and urban parts of the United States. In 1959, he authored an amendment to the Tennessee Valley Authority Act that allowed the agency to raise money through public bonds for additional power facilities on the Tennessee River Valley. Jones sponsored both the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965 and the Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965 to boost rural economic activity. Jones also was concerned about water quality and sponsored the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 and served as the vice chairman of the National Commission on Water Quality in 1976. Jones served as the chair of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee from 1976 to 1977. A social conservative who supported segregation, Jones joined the rest of the Alabama delegation in signing the 1956 Southern Manifesto denouncing the 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawing segregation in public schools, calling it constitutional and judicial overreach. He also voted against the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, 1964, and 1968 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He retired in 1977 and did not seek reelection for the 1978 congressional term; the open seat was filled by Ronnie G. Flippo.
Bob Jones Campaign Headquarters He was a member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars and in 1961 was made an honorary member of the Rotary Foundation philanthropic organization. Jones was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in 1977. On February 28, 1984, the Alabama legislature honored Jones by passing a resolution expressing the state’s gratitude for his long service. Bob Jones High School in Madison County was named in his honor, as was Bob Jones Avenue in his native city of Scottsboro and the Bob Jones Bridge over the Tennessee River in Scottsboro. On November 3, 1987, Pres. Ronald Reagan signed into law a resolution designating part of Corridor V in Alabama as the Robert E. (Bob) Jones, Jr. Highway. Jones died at the age of 84 on June 4, 1997, and was buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Scottsboro.
Alabama Official and Statistical Register, 1967. Montgomery, Alabama: Alabama Department of Archives and History, 1967.
Ralph Nader Congress Project. Citizens Look at Congress: Robert E. Jones, Democratic Representative from Alabama. Washington, D. C.: Grossman Publishers, 1972.