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Vernon Jones

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Vernon Jones
Member of the
Georgia House of Representatives
Assumed office
January 9, 2017
Preceded byDee Dawkins-Haigler
Succeeded byRhonda Taylor (elect)
Constituency91st district
In office
January 1993 – January 2001
Preceded bySidney Jones
Succeeded byWalter Ronnie Sailor Jr.
Constituency71st district
Chief Executive Officer of DeKalb County
In office
January 1, 2001 – January 1, 2009
Preceded byLiane Levetan[1]
Succeeded byBurrell Ellis[2]
Personal details
Born (1960-10-31) October 31, 1960 (age 60)
Laurel Hill, Scotland County, North Carolina, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationNorth Carolina Central University (BA)

Vernon Jones (born October 31, 1960) is an American politician who has served as a State Representative in the Georgia House of Representatives since 2017, and previously from 1993 to 2001. A member of the Democratic Party, Jones was Chief Executive Officer of DeKalb County, Georgia, from 2001 to 2009.

Jones was a member of the Georgia House of Representatives from 1993 to 2001, before serving as Chief Executive Officer of DeKalb County from 2001 to 2009. He unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2008.[3] After unsuccessful runs for the United States House of Representatives (2010) and DeKalb County Sheriff (2014), Jones returned to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2017.[4] In April 2020, Jones announced his endorsement of President Donald Trump for re-election, and spoke at the Republican National Convention on his behalf.[5]

Early life and business career[edit]

Born in Laurel Hill, North Carolina, Jones grew up on a farm in rural North Carolina.[6] His father was a veteran of World War II who worked in a mill; his mother and siblings worked on the family farm. Jones was the fifth of six children, with four brothers and a sister.[7] He attended North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina, and became a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity there, before graduating with a B.A. in business administration in 1983.[6] Jones also completed the John F. Kennedy School of Government's Executive Program.[8]

Jones began his career in the telecommunications industry, first working with MCI Communications (now MCI Inc.) and later BellSouth Corporation.[6] At BellSouth, he was part of a team that established wireless communications in Montevideo, Uruguay.[8] Jones has served on the DeKalb Board of Health, the Atlanta Regional Commission, the DeKalb Library Board, the DeKalb Pension Board, and the Board of Visitors for Emory University and North Carolina Central University.[9]

Political career[edit]

Political positions[edit]

During his 2008 Senate campaign, Jones described himself as a "conservative Democrat" who favors "tough immigration laws and fiscal responsibility" as well as "supporter of gun rights and a staunch environmental advocate".[10] During his 2008 campaign, he stated that he opposed same-sex marriage.[11] rated Jones as a "Moderate Libertarian Conservative".[12] Jones stated that he voted for George W. Bush in 2004, and supported Barack Obama in 2008.[13] Jones donated $2,464 in two separate donations to the Georgia Republican Party in 2001.[14][15] In a 2014 press release, Jones characterized himself as an "advocate for limited government, security and protections for all citizens, balanced budgeting, ethical and efficient elections, [and] job creation".[16] Jones was the only Democratic cosponsor of the bill to legalize the concealed carry of firearms on Georgia's college campuses.[17]

Georgia House of Representatives[edit]

Jones was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1992, representing District SH 071, succeeding Sidney Pope Jones, Jr.[18] Jones served from 1993 to 2001, during which time he was a member of the Appropriations Committee, the Insurance Committee, and the Health & Ecology Committee,[19] as well as the Banking Committee, and a special Judiciary Committee.[10] Jones also chaired the Chairman of the Health Professions Subcommittee. Among the proposals Jones sponsored or co-sponsored in the Georgia House was a bill to remove the Confederate battle flag emblem from Georgia State flag, and a bill that would have banned minors from purchasing music with explicit lyrics.[7] Jones did not stand for reelection in 2000, instead running for DeKalb County CEO, and was succeeded in the Georgia House by Ron Sailor.[20]

DeKalb County CEO[edit]

Jones was elected as chief executive officer of Dekalb County, Georgia, in 2000, winning 64% of the vote, and was re-elected in 2004 with 54% of the vote. Jones is the first African American to serve as CEO of the county, and the youngest ever elected in the county.[6] In April 2001, shortly after Jones became CEO, he voted, along with five other DeKalb County Commissioners, to offer life and health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of gay and unmarried County employees. DeKalb was the first county in Georgia to offer such benefits.[21] During his administration, Dekalb County established the first local Homeland Security Office in 2001.[22] Under Jones, DeKalb County approved creation of a new senior center, increased funding for roads, libraries, and park improvements while maintaining a balanced budget, and increasing the county's credit rating to AAA. As CEO, Jones promoted and achieved passage of a $125 million bond referendum that allowed for the acquisition of 2,735 acre expansion of the DeKalb County's green space, increasing the county's parks and green space by 70%.[6][22] He requested and received Congressional designation of Arabia Mountain as a National Heritage Area.[6] Jones was also primarily responsible for creation of Dekalb County's first economic development department, which generated $4 billion in new investments.[7]

However, Jones' term as DeKalb County CEO was also known for controversies and accusations of improprieties. Shortly after taking office Jones went back on his campaign pledge to keep the homestead exemption sales tax in place.[23] He was criticized for vetoing pay raises for police officers.[24] In January 2005, the Georgia State Ethics Commission sanctioned Jones for campaign contribution limit violations in his 2004 reelection campaign. Under a Consent Order, Jones returned all excess contributions and personally paid a $7,500 civil penalty.[25] Jones apologized and stated that changes in campaign finance laws between the initial election and the run-off election were the reason for his acceptance of nineteen improper campaign contributions.[7] He was accused of illegally using campaign funds to promote the 2005 bond referendum, but the State Ethics Commission "found no reasonable grounds" for the complaint.[26]

Jones was also accused of excessive spending and questionable real estate transactions, and was sued for racial discrimination (see Controversies section below).[27]

2008 United States Senate campaign[edit]

Jones ran for the U.S. Senate in 2008, but was defeated 60% to 40% in the 2008 run-off for Georgia's Democratic U.S. Senate primary.[3]

On March 23, 2007, Jones announced he was running for the United States Senate against incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss. Jones was criticized by his chief rival Jim Martin over his more conservative politics and past support for George W. Bush.[13] Jones' campaign was also marred by two new controversies. Jones sent out a flier in which he appeared in a digitally altered picture next to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama with the words "Yes We Can." However, Obama himself stated he not only never posed with Jones, he did not endorse Jones or any other candidate for the Democratic nomination for Senate.[28] In response, Jones blamed his "liberal opponents backed by the liberal media" for trying to ruin his campaign.[27] Jones also received criticism for the appearance of the tagline "Vote Vernon Jones for GA Senate" on tickets, produced using county funds, for the Dekalb County Blues and Jazz Festival. The company who printed the tickets, supporters of Jones' campaign, took responsibility for the incident; saying that they were unaware campaign finance laws made such an action illegal.[29]

In the July 15, 2008 Democratic primary election, Jones won a plurality of votes in the Democratic primary. However, Georgia law requires a majority; if no majority is reached by a candidate, the two top vote-getters must face one another in a runoff. On August 5, 2008, Jones lost the run-off election to Jim Martin by a margin of 20 points. Jones unexpectedly lost to Martin in his home base of Dekalb County.[30] Jones had lost support within the black community before the runoff election, and only captured two-thirds of the black vote in the head to head match up against Martin. The black turnout in the run-off was also substantially lower than the initial primary election, further hurting Vernon Jones' chances in the runoff.[31]

2008 Georgia U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Election[32]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Vernon Jones 199,026 40.4
Democratic Jim Martin 169,635 34.4
Democratic Dale Cardwell 79,181 16.1
Democratic Rand Knight 25,667 5.2
Democratic Josh Lanier 19,717 4.0
Turnout 493,226 100.0
2008 Georgia U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Election Runoff[33]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Jim Martin 191,061 59.9 +25.5
Democratic Vernon Jones 127,993 40.1 -0.3
Turnout 319,054 100.0

Unsuccessful races[edit]

In 2010, Jones launched an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Congress in Georgia's 4th congressional district.[34] In 2014, Jones ran unsuccessfully for Sheriff of DeKalb County, GA. He lost to incumbent Sheriff Jeff Mann, 76% to 24%.[35]

Return to the Georgia House[edit]

In March 2016, Jones filed to run for Georgia House of Representatives, this time in House District 91, an open seat vacated by Dee Dawkins-Haigler.[36] In the May 2016 Democratic primary election, Jones came within sixty votes of an outright victory, but was forced into a runoff election with Rhonda Taylor.[37] Jones won the July runoff election[38] and in November 2016, once again won election to the Georgia House, defeating Republican Carl Anuszczyk.[4]

Endorsement of Donald Trump[edit]

On April 14, 2020, Jones became the first state elected Democratic official in Georgia to endorse President Donald Trump's re-election bid.[39] Jones said he has no plans to switch political parties and gave his reasons for the endorsement by saying "It’s very simple to me. President Trump’s handling of the economy, his support for historically black colleges and his criminal justice initiatives drew me to endorse his campaign."[40] Due to backlash from his endorsement of Trump, he announced his resignation from the Georgia House of Representatives on April 22, 2020.[5] On April 23, 2020, Jones announced on his Twitter account that he was in fact not resigning.[41] On August 24, 2020, Jones addressed the 2020 Republican National Convention and reiterated his endorsement of Trump.[42] On October 16, 2020, Jones spoke at a Trump rally in Macon, Georgia and crowd surfed afterwords, which drew criticism as it occurred in the middle of a pandemic with a mostly maskless crowd.[43]

Jones said that the election in Georgia has been "tainted" after the 2020 United States presidential election.[44][45]


Annual Security Detail Budget[edit]

In 2003, Jones was accused of excessive spending after a news article highlighted his annual budget of $250,000 "that went towards the salary and overtime pay of his 5 member security detail". Two separate county grand juries concluded there was no criminal wrongdoing, but the security detail should be decreased.[7]

Accusations of racial discrimination[edit]

On August 24, 2004, two current (Michael Bryant, John Drake) and two former (Becky Kelley, Herbert Lowe) senior employees of the Parks Department filed suit against DeKalb County, Vernon Jones (as CEO of the county), and three of Jones' subordinates (Marilyn Boyd Drew, Richard Stogner, and Morris Williams), alleging racial discrimination, or in the case of Lowe, "retaliation for refusing to assist in racial discrimination". Kelly, Bryant, and Drake were white, while Lowe was black.[46]

Attorneys for the DeKalb County defendants moved for summary judgment on the grounds of qualified immunity as state officials. On November 10, 2006, District Court Judge William Duffey rejected their summary judgment petition, holding that the law does not allow "a public official defendant to engage in calculated racial discrimination costumed in a racially neutral garb of administrative actions so it can masquerade as a qualified immunity defense".[46] On November 21, 2006, Duffey ruled that the case could go forward to a jury trial.[47] Jones and his fellow defendants then appealed the denial of their summary judgement motion. On July 31, 2009, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the District Court judge's rejection of the Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the grounds of qualified immunity. Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat, writing for the court, stated in the ruling that "DeKalb County, Georgia [had] embarked on a wholesale plan to replace its white county managers with African Americans" and that Vernon Jones had "devised the plan and monitored its execution".[46]

In March 2010, the case was finally heard by a jury. During the trial plaintiffs' attorneys called witnesses from across county government in an attempt to demonstrate a countywide policy of discrimination. Jones denied any discrimination against white employees. He testified that "I wanted the best and the brightest. That meant blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, gay, straight, anybody who wanted to work for DeKalb County. I wanted everybody to have a seat at the table".[48] Other testimony revealed that during the first five years of Jones' term in office, the number of white senior county managers had dropped from 61 to 57, and the number of African-American senior county managers had risen from 33 to 61.[49]

On April 2, 2010, the jury awarded damages to two of the four plaintiffs. Michael Bryant, who died before the trial, and John Drake. The jurors found that Jones, his former executive assistant, Richard Stogner, and former parks director Marilyn Boyd Drew, were liable only for $185,000 in damages, substantially lower than the $2 million requested by plaintiffs. While DeKalb County was found liable, the jury cleared Jones of any racial discrimination. However, Jones was still found to have "created and maintained a hostile work environment".[48] Jones was ordered to personally pay $27,750[50] of the damages, which was covered by the DeKalb County's $50,000 liability insurance policy on its employees.[51]

While the verdict was initially hailed as a victory for Jones, the judge later awarded the plaintiffs an additional $1.9 million in legal fees.[51] DeKalb County ultimately agreed to pay the plaintiffs a total of $1.3 million for legal fees and damages on the April 19th, 2011, post-trial settlement.[52]


  1. ^ "Liane Levetan: A Guide to Her Papers at Georgia State University Library". Georgia State University Library. August 2013. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  2. ^ Stuart, Gwynedd (November 4, 2010). "DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis isn't your typical politician: That's part of his problem". Creative Loafing. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Williams, Dick (August 8, 2008). "Jones Humble in Defeat". Atlanta Business Chronicle. Atlanta, GA. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  4. ^ a b Niesse, Mark (November 9, 2016). "DeKalb County election results". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Olson, Tyler (April 22, 2020). "Democratic Georgia rep who endorsed Trump resigns after backlash: report". Foxnews. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones; CEO Biography". Dekalb County, Georgia. Archived from the original on July 30, 2008. Retrieved August 2, 2008.
  7. ^ a b c d e Thomas, Chandra R. (July 2006). "Mr. Big: Love him or hate him, no one has lukewarm feelings about Vernon Jones [...]". Atlanta Magazine: 92–107.
  8. ^ a b "CivicMakers: Venon Jones". The History Makers. August 13, 2003. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  9. ^ "Vernon Jones' Biography". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  10. ^ a b McCaffrey, Shannon (August 3, 2008). "Vernon Jones: 'Look at my record'". Savannah Morning News. Savannah, GA. Retrieved April 26, 2015.
  11. ^ Andre in Atlanta (June 29, 2008). "Democrats Debate: Jim Martin Opposes Gay Marriage". Peach Pundit. Retrieved April 26, 2015.
  12. ^ "Vernon Jones (Democratic Senate challenger) On the Issues". & The SpeakOut Foundation. July 2008. Retrieved April 25, 2015.
  13. ^ a b "More on Vernon Jones and Dale Cardwell". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. May 1, 2008.
  14. ^ "FEC Individual Contributions". Federal Election Commission. January 12, 2001. Retrieved July 30, 2008.
  15. ^ "FEC Individual Contributions". Federal Election Commission. January 12, 2001. Retrieved July 30, 2008.
  16. ^ Donahue, J. M. (December 9, 2014). "Press Release: Democratic Politician and Former CEO of DeKalb County, Georgia, Vernon Jones to appear on The Art Rocker Radio Show". Operation People for Peace, Inc. Retrieved April 26, 2015.
  17. ^
  18. ^ "General election and constitutional amendments, November 6, 1990". State of Georgia. November 1990. p. 200. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  19. ^ "Hon. Vernon Jones (GA SH 071)". Georgia House of Representatives. June 26, 2000. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  20. ^ "State Representative – District 71". Georgia Election Results: Official Results of the November 7, 2000 General Election. Georgia Secretary of State. November 17, 2000. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  21. ^ Anderson, Will (April 27, 2001). "DeKalb approves giving benefits to domestic partners". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Atlanta, GA. Retrieved April 26, 2015.[dead link] Alt URL
  22. ^ a b "Agenda: Versus". Atlanta: 38. May 2008.
  23. ^ Henry, Scott (July 7, 2005). "Tyrannosaurus Jones, Magnetic leader or monster: Will the real Vernon please stand up?". Creative Loafing Atlanta. Atlanta, GA. p. 3. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  24. ^ King, Michael; Leslie, Jennifer (March 12, 2008). "DeKalb Public Safety Raise Vetoed". 11 Alive Atlanta. Atlanta, GA. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  25. ^ Nicholson, Sam G.; Farrow, Steve; Williams, Jack; Bowers, Emmett; Moskowitz, David (January 7, 2005). "Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Meeting Held January 7, 2005" (PDF). Georgia State Ethics Commission. Retrieved April 25, 2015.
  26. ^ Jordan, William H.; Bowers, Emmett; Pollard, Griffin B., Jr.; Gatewood, James C. (November 29, 2007). "Meeting Minutes November 29, 2007; In the Matter of Vernon Jones, Case No. (2005-0107)" (PDF). Georgia State Ethics Commission. pp. 5–7. Retrieved April 23, 2015.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  27. ^ a b "Vernon Jones vs. Dale Caldwell". Atlanta. Emmis Communications: 38. May 2008. ISSN 0004-6701.
  28. ^ Mccaffrey, Shannon (July 4, 2008). "Obama says Jones mailer is not an endorsement". Associated Press. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  29. ^ Jim Galloway (July 22, 2008). "Political Note on Tickets Cause Stir". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  30. ^ Rachel Kapochunas (August 5, 2008). "Martin Wins Georgia Dem Runoff, Will Challenge Sen. Chambliss". Congressional Quarterly.
  31. ^ "What's Next for Vernon Jones?". Atlanta Journal Constitution. August 10, 2008.
  32. ^ "Georgia Election Results; Official Results of the Tuesday, July 15, 2008 General Primary Election". Georgia Secretary of State. September 25, 2008. Retrieved April 25, 2015.
  33. ^ "Georgia Election Results; Official Results of the Tuesday, August 05, 2008 Primary Election Runoff". Georgia Secretary of State. August 15, 2008. Retrieved April 25, 2015.
  34. ^ Shin, Hyosub (July 20, 2010). "Election 2010: Vernon Jones". CBS News. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  35. ^ Chidi, George (July 23, 2014). "Vernon Jones And The Politics of Drinking Clorox". Peach Pundit. Tanalach Media, LLC. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  36. ^ Niesse, Mark (March 9, 2016). "Former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones enters race for Ga. House seat". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  37. ^ Niesse, Mark (July 20, 2016). "House runoff features Vernon Jones and challenger Rhonda Taylor". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  38. ^ Marbaugh, Wade (July 27, 2016). "Vernon Jones wins State House District 91 runoff". The Newton Citizen. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  39. ^ Bluestein, Greg. "Georgia Democratic lawmaker endorses Trump's presidential bid". ajc. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
  40. ^ Bluestein, Greg (April 14, 2020). "State Democrats quickly disown Vernon Jones". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  41. ^ Jones, Vernon (April 23, 2020). "". Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  42. ^ Pramuk, Jacob (August 24, 2020). "Here's the speaker lineup for the first night of the Republican National Convention". CNBC. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  43. ^ Murphy, Patricia (October 19, 2020). "The Jolt: Never mind the pandemic -- Vernon Jones crowd-surfs a mask-deficient Trump crowd". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^ a b c United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit (July 31, 2009). "Bryant v. Jones (No. 06-16591) Decision". Leagle, Inc. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  47. ^ "Discrimination lawsuit against DeKalb County to go to trial". Dalton Daily Citizen. Dalton, GA. Associated Press. November 25, 2006. Retrieved April 26, 2015.
  48. ^ a b Scott, Jeffry (April 2, 2010). "DeKalb discrimination suit: Jones ordered to pay". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlanta, GA. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  49. ^ Dewan, Shaila (April 1, 2010). "Georgia: Award in Reverse Discrimination Suit". The New York Times. New York, NY. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  50. ^ Belcher, Richard (April 1, 2010). "Vernon Jones Loses Discrimination Case In Split Verdict". WSB-TV Channel 2. Atlanta, GA. Retrieved April 26, 2015.
  51. ^ a b Ffrench-Parker, Jennifer (April 9, 2010). "Jones: Discrimination lawsuits outcome a victory for county". CrossRoads News. Decatur, GA. Retrieved April 26, 2015.
  52. ^ "DeKalb County To Pay $1.3M In Race Discrimination Lawsuit". Georgia Newsday. Germantown, MD. Associated Press. April 19, 2011. Retrieved April 26, 2015.
Georgia House of Representatives
Preceded by
Sidney Jones
Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
from the 71st district

Succeeded by
Ron Sailor
Preceded by
Dee Dawkins-Haigler
Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
from the 91st district

Political offices
Preceded by
Liane Levetan
Chief Executive Officer of DeKalb County
Succeeded by
Burrell Ellis