Dick Jones (Wyoming politician)

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Richard R. "Dick" Jones
Wyoming State Senator from Park County
In office
1957–1974
Wyoming State Representative from Park County
In office
1955–1957
Mayor of Powell, Wyoming
In office
1950–1954
Personal details
Born (1910-09-05)September 5, 1910
Huntley near Billings, Yellowstone County, Montana, USA
Died August 20, 2008(2008-08-20) (aged 97)
Powell, Park County

Wyoming

Resting place Riverside Cemetery in Cody, Wyoming
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) (1) Estes "Jackie" Clarke Jones (married 1932–1984, her death)

(2) Evelyn Nelson Jones (married 1987 – his death)

Children Nancy Jones Cook

Alan Jones
Tom Jones

Residence Cody and Powell, Wyoming
Occupation Trucking executive
Religion Methodist
(1) Jones resigned from the Wyoming State Senate to mount a gubernatorial race in 1974 to succeed his friend, retiring Republican Governor Stanley K. Hathaway.

(2) Jones lost the general election to Democrat Edgar Herschler in a nationally Democratic year in light of the Watergate affair.

(3) Dick Jones Trucking Company, a family-owned business, continues to operate from Powell.

(4) Over the years, Jones identified himself with the Ronald W. Reagan political faction within the Wyoming GOP.

(5) Jones attributed his business and political success not to "luck", but "work".

Richard R. "Dick" Jones (September 5, 1910 – August 20, 2008) was a trucking executive from Cody and Powell in Park County, Wyoming, who served in his state's House of Representatives and Senate from 1955 to 1974. He was the unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial nominee in the nationally Democratic year of 1974. A conservative, Jones was allied with the Ronald W. Reagan political faction in Wyoming. His family-owned Dick Jones Trucking Company still operates from Powell; at its peak, it reached into thirty-eight states.[1]

Early years and business success[edit]

Jones was the third of six children born to Swedish immigrants and naturalized citizens, Alfred and Elsa Jones. He spent his early years on the family homestead east of Billings, the largest city in Montana, on the Huntley Project, an irrigation showcase. In 1928, he graduated from Huntley Project High School. The area is now referred to as the unincorporated community of Huntley in Yellowstone County. Jones visited Sweden on several occasions and also took his five grandchildren to meet their European relatives.[2]

As a young man, Jones worked for the railroad and delivered milk in Billings. He started the first trucking company in Casper in eastern Wyoming. In 1932, he married his high school sweetheart, the former Estes "Jackie" Clarke, and the couple had three children. Estes died in 1984, and two years later, Jones married the former Evelyn Nelson. In 1935, Jones purchased a one-truck freight company in Powell, the original Dick Jones Trucking. A son, grandson, and a granddaughter work in the business. For many years, the company was based in Cody, but it returned in 2001 to Powell, where Jones had been elected to the city council in 1940 and as mayor in 1950.[2]

Legislative service and gubernatorial bid[edit]

Jones was elected to the Wyoming House in 1954 and elevated by voters to the Senate in 1956, where he served until he resigned to run for governor in a bid to succeed retiring Republican Governor Stanley K. Hathaway. Jones was also the Wyoming Senate President from 1967 to 1968 and for a time was chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. While he was a senator, Governor Hathaway named him to the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education.[2]

Jones won the Republican nomination for governor by only 834 votes (1.4 percent) over his closest competitor, then state Senator Malcolm Wallop, a New York City-born rancher and businessman from Sheridan in northeastern Wyoming. Two years later, Wallop would unseat Democratic U.S. Senator Gale W. McGee. Jones received 15,502 (26.5 percent) of the primary ballots to Wallop's 14,688 (25.1 percent). Two other candidates were marginally behind, Roy Peck, a newspaper publisher from Riverton, with 14, 217 (24.7 percent), and Clarence Brimmer (born 1922), with 14,014 (24 percent). Brimmer was appointed in 1975 by President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., to one of the Wyoming federal judgeships and has announced his retirement. There is no runoff election in Wyoming; so Jones' primary plurality was sufficient for the nomination.[3]

Jones then faced Democrat Edgar Herschler of Kemmerer in Lincoln County. With 19,997 votes (46.6 percent), Herschler defeated two primary rivals, Harry E. Leimback and John J. Rooney, who polled 15,255 (35.5 percent) and 7,674 (17.9 percent), respectively.[4] Rooney had been the unsuccessful 1970 Democratic nominee against Hathaway. Herschler prevailed, 71,741 (55.9 percent) to Jones' 56,645 (44.1 percent). The national political mood worked against Republicans in light of the Watergate scandal though nearly all of the Republican candidates nationally had nothing to do with the matter. The total Republican vote in the primary had been 58,421. So Jones failed to acquire 1,776 votes cast in the Republican primary and made no apparent gains among Democrats. Herschler, however, polled 28,815 more votes in the general election that the combined Democratic primary total.[5] Herschler served three terms as governor from 1975 to 1987.

In 1978, former Republican State Senator John C. Ostlund (1927–2004) of Gillette,[6] the seat of Campbell County in northeastern Wyoming, polled 67,595 votes (49.1 percent) in his unsuccessful effort to deny Herschler a second term. Ostlund's vote was hence 10,950 more than Jones' had been four years earlier.[7]

Jones was thereafter a financial supporter of Reagan in 1976, 1980, and 1984 and contributed to various Republican candidates in Wyoming during that time as well as the state GOP and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. In 1999, he became a contributor to the first presidential campaign of U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona. He also donated to former primary rival Malcolm Wallop and former Senator Alan K. Simpson of Cody.[8]

Death and legacy[edit]

Jones died of complications from surgery in Powell Hospital some two weeks before his 98th birthday. In addition to his wife Evelyn, he was survived by daughter Nancy (husband Tom) Cook of Cody, and sons Alan C. Jones (born 1941) and wife Alayne of Powell, and Tom Jones and wife Barbara Costa Jones of Cheyenne; five grandchildren, Pam Ruehle, Rick Cook, Carol Zierk, LeAnne Kindred, and Mitch Jones; ten great-grandchildren; sister Ruby Snyder and sister-in-law Alma Jones, both of Huntley. He was preceded in death by his parents, brothers, Bill and Bob Jones, and sisters, Irene Hauf and Lois Weidinger. Services were held on August 25 at First United Methodist Church of Cody. Interment was in Riverside Cemetery, founded in Cody by "Buffalo Bill" Cody.[2]

Jones was a mover and shaker behind the creation of Northwest Community College in Powell and served on the original board of trustees. He was also instrumental in the formation of the Northwest Community College Foundation and served on the board of directors.[2] Wyoming has a collection of community colleges but only one four-year degree-granting institution, the University of Wyoming at Laramie.

Jones' lack of higher education proved no impediment to his success. When he was once quizzed about his "luck", he replied, "Yes, I am lucky, the harder I work, the luckier I am."[2]

References[edit]

Preceded by
Stanley K. Hathaway (1970)
Republican gubernatorial nominee in Wyoming

Richard R. "Dick" Jones
1974

Succeeded by
John C. Ostlund (1978)