Early Life and Political Career
Jones was born enslaved during the first half of the 1830s in King William County on the plantation of Anderson Scott, who may have been his father. His mother was Frances Wirt and Scott emancipated her, her children, and her grandchildren when he died in 1864 and divided his land, known as Greenway Farm, among them. Jones received about thirty-three acres. There is no information regarding Jones’s education, but he learned to read and write and may have shown extraordinary aptitude because he was later reported to have managed the farm accounts and shipments of grain and other commodities while he was still enslaved. After the Civil War he sometimes sought the aid of agents with the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands in property disputes. In November 1866 he was shot and injured by a white man who was in a relationship with one of Jones’s sisters, and Jones repeatedly wrote Freedmen’s Bureau agents and military authorities in an unsuccessful attempt to secure another trial, both before and after the white man was sentenced to thirty days in the local jail and a $100 fine by what was termed “a real rebel jury” in the King William County Court.
Records do not indicate how Jones first became involved in Radical Republican Party politics, but on July 6, 1869, he defeated a white Conservative Party candidate 675 to 618 to represent King William County for a two-year term in the House of Delegates. The defeated candidate challenged the legality of the election because one ballot box rather than two had been used at the courthouse precinct. On March 8, 1870, the House of Delegates ruled in Jones’s favor. In the short, special session of the General Assembly in October 1869, Jones voted to ratify the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, which Congress required before it admitted the state’s senators and representatives to their seats.
During his term in the House of Delegates, Jones served on the Committees on Counties, Cities, and Towns and the less-important Committee on Officers and Offices at the Capitol. He was an unusually active first-term legislator and frequently took part in business on the floor. Jones introduced numerous bills or resolutions to encourage killing of foxes and crows; to restrict the hunting of partridges; to inquire into the incarceration of a local man in the county jail; to pay men who were required to work on the public road; to provide that each township have a resident physician; to assist people who were too poor to care for their children; to apprentice orphaned children of formerly enslaved parents to learn trades; to allow referenda on enforcement of the optional state fence law; to authorize a referendum to allow the construction of a free bridge over the Pamunkey River between King William and Hanover Counties; to discourage emigration of working men from the state; to criminalize gambling; to appoint an inspector of flour in each county; and to require settlement of estates within twelve months of a person’s death.
In June 1870, Jones voted with other African American members to strike from the bill to create the state’s first public school system a clause that required racial segregation of students. The motion failed to pass and some of the African American legislators subsequently cast a symbolic vote against passage of the school bill that they almost certainly favored, although Jones did not vote. On March 28, 1871, he voted with the majority, including most of the other African American delegates, for a bill to pay the public debt left over from before the Civil War. During his term, he boarded in Richmond with several other African American members of the Assembly, including Henry Cox, George Fayerman, and George Seaton. Jones did not run for a second term.
Jones never married. His property was sold at public auction late in 1884 to satisfy a debt, but Jones continued to farm in the vicinity until about 1911, when he last appeared in the King William County personal property tax records. The date of his death and place of his burial is unknown.