Tennessee Congressman Ed Jones made many contributions to agriculture during his lifetime. Now his legacy will continue with a leadership gift by Farm Credit Mid-America to fund the Ed and Llew Jones Distinguished Lecture Series at the University of Tennessee at Martin.
The $12,500 gift announcement was made June 6 in the Paul Meek Library’s Corbitt Special Collections, which houses a replica of the late congressman’s office and holds his congressional papers.
The original Ed Jones Distinguished Lecturer Series began in 1989 as Tennessee Sen. Al Gore Jr. participated as the first lecturer. Jones actively supported the series until it ended in 1995. The lead gift from Farm Credit is the first step toward endowing the lecture series, which will now also carry his late wife’s name.
“Ed Jones was always trying to help agriculture, both the people and the industry, adapt to and change with the times,” said Dr. Jim Culver, president, VVC Exploration, Inc., and a former congressional aide to Jones. “That is what he focused on with his speaker series at UTM. My hope is that we can continue that legacy.”
Tim Williams, Farm Credit Mid-America regional vice president, made the gift announcement to an audience that included John Tanner, former U.S. representative for Tennessee’s 8th congressional district and who succeeded Jones when he retired, and Dr. Tom Rakes, UT Martin chancellor.
“Farm Credit has a stewardship plan every year to invest money in the communities,” said Williams. “We try to focus on education, and we see this distinguished lecture series as being an opportunity to educate not only people on the campus at UT Martin, but also the community as whole.”
Jones, a Yorkville native, earned a two-year degree in 1932 from UT Junior College, predecessor to UT Martin and a bachelor’s degree in 1934 from UT Knoxville. During his career, he served as a state dairy inspector, an agricultural agent for the Illinois Central Railroad, a farm radio host and was appointed Tennessee commissioner of agriculture under Gov. Gordon Browning. He is probably best known for his service from 1969-89 as U.S. representative, and he remained active in his family’s farm throughout his career.
In Congress, Jones was a senior member of the House Committee on Agriculture during a time of change in the agriculture industry and the institutions that supported it.
Notable events that occurred during his career were the Farm Strike and Tractorcade to Washington, D.C., in the late 1970s, the financial struggles of the Farm Credit System, the regulation of the futures market, and the transition of the soil and water conservation programs.
Jones was selected in 2011 to become only the 13th member of the Tennessee Agricultural Hall of Fame. The hall collection is maintained by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture at the Tennessee Agricultural Museum in Nashville.
Gifts to the lecture series fund can be made online at www.utm.edu or by calling the UT Martin Office of Development at 731-881-7620.
(Published in The Press on 6.13.13)