Friends and family members are mourning the loss of one of Thomasville’s “greats.” Harry Tudor Jones Jr. died at the age of 93 on Monday.
Almost everyone you ask has the same opinion of Harry Tudor Jones Jr. All consider him a true gentleman and civic leader with remarkable experience.
Jones was a native of Norfolk, Va., where he graduated from Virginia Military Institute in 1943. After his graduation, he enlisted in the U.S Army when World War II was at its height. When Jones completed Officer Candidates School, he fought on the German front, flying a small reconnaissance plane that he named “The Georgia Peach” in honor of his Thomasville sweetheart and future wife, Celetta Powell.
It was in April 1946, right after the war had ended ,that he finally came to Thomasville to marry his “Georgia Peach.” However, they did not begin their lives together in Thomasville, but moved to Philadelphia, Pa. It was there that he earned his Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) at the Wharton School.
William J. Powell, Jones’s father-in-law, offered him a position at W. J. Powell Company. He accepted and began a career that lasted 50 years.
Under the leadership of Jones, the company expanded greatly and became one of the Southeast’s major wholesale food distributors. He was the president of the company for more than two decades.
Within Jones’ lifetime, he served on many boards. He was the president of the Thomasville YMCA and a member of the Archbold Hospital Board for 30 years.
R.C. Balfour remembers serving with him on many boards, including those for the YMCA and Archbold Hospital.
“He gave lots of time, but he was an unusual person — a great Christian,” Balfour said. “I never heard him raise his voice. He was always able to get his point across.
“He’s the only person I’ve known that has that ability.”
Balfour also lauded Jones’ integrity.
He added, “He was able to approach an issue with good common sense — not with anger — and he never aroused anger from anyone else, either. He spoke in a soft, small voice that was heard.
“We’ve lost that in today’s world. Harry always stood in the middle, never divided and was always heard.”
Balfour also commented on how valuable Jones was to his community and church.
Larry Harmon knew Jones through Thomasville Rotary. Jones was a former club president and as an officer at First Presbyterian Church where they served together.
Harmon recalled Jones’ generosity.
“I never heard a cross word come from him. He never said anything bad about anyone. He will certainly be missed — one of the true greats of the community,” said Harmon.
Harmon said Jones took him under his wing when he moved to Thomasville.
He said, “He was like a father to me. I’m not from here and he was one of the church elders. I looked up to him.”
Another one of the many community organizations that benefited from Jones’ hands-on involvement was Archbold Medical Center. Since 1966, Jones served the Archbold healthcare system in many capacities, including more than 47 years of continuous service as a active and senior active member of the boards of trustees. Over the years, he led the organization as president of the Archbold Memorial Hospital board of trustees and as chairman of the Archbold Foundation board of trustees.
“The entire Archbold organization has lost a great friend and supporter. Harry Jones was the very definition of a servant leader and gave freely of his time and talents in so many ways over so many years,” said Perry Mustian, president and CEO of Archbold Medical Center. “Our community and our organization have long been the beneficiaries of the work of great community leaders, and Mr. Jones was one of the giants in Archbold’s long history. We are stronger because of his involvement, his support and his dedicated service over the past five decades.”
Jones had many hobbies that included golf, hunting and reading — particularly history. He also loved spending time with his children and grandchildren.
Tommy Vann, one of Jones’s neighbors, remembered going with his father, Heyward Vann, at the age of 10 to golf. Jones was in the group of men. He said it was so much fun watching the men play golf and it is a memory he has always cherished.
“They would tease one another and enjoy golfing. It was actually a memory I told the family. It is one that has stuck with me. The men were all great friends and average golfers,” said Vann.
Jones was not only Vann’s neighbor, but a mentor, a client and friend.
He added, “Jones exemplified everything you could say about a gentleman.”
Jones had such fun in life that he was quoted as saying, “I don’t know how I had time to work those 70 hours a week during my career.”
Joe Beverly, chairman of the Board of Commercial Bank, served with Jones on multiple boards and knew him well as a local civic leader. He summed up his remembrance of Jones and said, “I think he’s one of the finest men who ever lived.”