GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — John M. Jones III, longtime publisher of The Greeneville Sun and a major force in the city’s economic development and civic life, died Tuesday. He was 101.
Jones, a native of Sweetwater, Tennessee, passed away peacefully surrounded by family, The Sun reported (http://bit.ly/2a5njmb).
He joined the newspaper in December 1945 following almost four years with the U.S. Army during World War II. He served as assistant general manager at the request of his mother-in-law, the late Edith O’Keefe Susong, who was publisher of the Sun and its predecessor newspapers from 1916 until her death in 1974.
Jones and his wife, the former Arne Susong, bought a half-ownership in the newspaper and he succeeded Susong as publisher at her death. The newspaper said he continued to hold that position, although, for health reasons, he has not been active in the Sun’s management for more than 10 years.
From the 1960s through the 1980s, Jones played the key leadership role in expanding the family’s newspaper interests throughout eastern Tennessee.
The company in recent years became Jones Media Inc., consisting of community newspapers throughout eastern Tennessee, including The Daily Times of Maryville, The Daily Post-Athenian of Athens, The Newport Plain Talk and others. The company also owns newspapers in Boone, North Carolina.
Jones is a former president of the Tennessee Press Association, and served on the board of directors of the then-American Newspaper Publishers Association, which represents daily newspapers. The organization is now the Newspaper Association of America.
He also served on the Associated Press Board of Directors for nine years in the 1980s.
Jones is widely regarded as the unofficial “father” of the current Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
The newspaper reported that after mistakes by local law enforcement in 1949 left a murder in Greene County unsolved, Jones decided the state needed an FBI-type agency to assist local agencies investigate of serious and/or complex felonies.
Under his leadership, the Tennessee Press Association campaigned successfully for the creation of the statewide crime-fighting agency in the early 1950s.
During World War II, Jones served as an intelligence officer under Brig. Gen. Frank D. Merrill in the 5307th Composite Unit, which became popularly known as “Merrill’s Marauders” after a war correspondent referred to the unit in that way.
The 3,000-man volunteer regiment was a long-range penetration force that operated for some six months behind Japanese lines in Burma from February to August 1944.
The Sun reported that Merrill’s Marauders were the first American ground forces to fight on the continent of Asia during World War II and, after the war, provided the modern model for the U.S. Army Rangers and the U.S. Army Special Forces.
Jones received the Bronze Star and the Soldier’s Medal and left active duty at the end of the war with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
He is survived by his wife of 76 years; sons John M. Jones IV, former Sun editor, Alex S. Jones of Charleston, South Carolina, former director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, and Gregg K. Jones, co-publisher of the Sun and president and CEO of Jones Media Inc.; and daughters Edith Jones Floyd of Atlanta, Georgia, and Sarah Jones Harbison of Greeneville.
Visitation will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at St. James Episcopal Church in Greeneville. The funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Information from: The Greeneville Sun, http://www.greenevillesun.com