A dedicated public servant has passed away, just months after voters decided to return him to Raleigh.
State Sen. Ed Jones, D-Enfield, lost his battle with pancreatic cancer state Rep. Michael Wray said today, leaving behind his wife Mary, their children and grandchildren, and a legacy of public service.
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of my very good friend and colleague Senator Ed Jones,” Wray, D-Gaston, said. “Ed was one of the most influential people in my life, both personally and professionally and I am a better person for having known him. He was a mentor, a colleague and loyal friend and I will miss him deeply.
“Ed Jones was deeply devoted to his family, committed to his community and our state and will be missed for years to come. Please keep the Ed Jones family in your thoughts and prayers in their time of sorrow as they deal with the passing of their loving husband, father and grandfather.”
Jones’ public career began with his service with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. He served the patrol for 30 years, and while doing so, obtained a degree in Police Science from Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton in 1979.
After retiring from the Patrol, Jones served as Enfield Police Chief before being elected Mayor of Enfield on Sept. 10, 2002. Jones’ political career continued on an upward trajectory when he was appointed to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 2005 to fill the seat of Rep. John D. Hall upon Hall’s death. After being elected to a term in his own right, Jones then was appointed to the 4th North Carolina Senatorial District seat vacated by the death of Robert Holloman. Jones took his seat in the Senate on Jan. 25, 2007. Reelections followed in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
During his time with the Senate, serving Halifax, Northampton, Perquimans, Bertie, Gates, Chowan and Hertford counties, Jones was a highly visible public servant throughout the Roanoke Valley. He helped support efforts to build the Seaboard Municipal Complex, helped retiring Seaboard Mayor Melvin Broadnax receive the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, supported funding the Roanoke Valley Adult Day Center in Weldon, and spearheaded the push to de-annex Brandy Creek from the city of Roanoke Rapids, which was accomplished in June 2011.
Throughout his time in Raleigh, Jones was an advocate of public education, including the community college system, of which he was himself a product. In 2011, Jones advocated heavily for education programs for inmates, speaking at an inmate graduation at Tillery Correctional Center.
The Sen. Jones Golf Classic, held this past October at Scotfield Country Club in Enfield, benefitted the Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Business Education Partnership.
In the Senate, Jones served on the Education Committee, as well as the Judiciary 2 Committee as Vice Chair, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice and Public Safety, Mental Health and Youth Services, Rules, Ways and Means, and was Co-Chair for the State and Local Government Committee.
In July, Jones revealed he had been stricken with pancreatic cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy, but he did not allow the illness to slow down his drive to help residents of the Valley as their Senator.
“It has not affected my being active,” Jones said in July in going public with his diagnosis. “Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. Even though I have this disease, I don’t know how I will leave here.”
His health was not a campaign issue. Jones was able to best challenger Warren Scott Nail by a margin of 72.2 percent to 27.8 percent in November. After his reelection, Jones said he would continue to push to strengthen public education in his district, which after the redrawn maps would cover Halifax, Vance, Warren, and parts of Nash and Wilson counties.
He said a priority in this upcoming term was to be putting the Roanoke Valley back to work, and he was planning to fight the tolling of Interstate 95.
Despite the ravages of his illness, Jones continued to make numerous public appearances, including his toast by the Roanoke Avenue Business Alliance in November. The Alliance’s Main Street program was another cause Jones supported enthusiastically.
“We should bring back downtowns if we can,” Jones said last month. “There’s such a history about a town, and people go but don’t really look at the architecture and heritage. We’ve got to maintain that for our future so people can see we had folks who took great pride in building the city of Roanoke Rapids.”
Even with the diagnosis, Jones believed his situation was not bad.
“Bad is when you are in prison, on death row and to be executed the next morning,” Jones said. “I don’t know why I had this diagnosis. It has to be a reason to get my attention to help someone else.”