Judge Jones mourned
Published 10:05 pm Monday, January 26, 2015
A Suffolk model of jurisprudence died on Sunday after several years of declining health.
William Wellington Jones, 93, was a Driver native and later a lawyer, trial justice, Commonwealth’s Attorney and General District Court judge before retiring in 1991 after a 44-year career in law.
“I never remember not knowing Judge Jones,” said Fred Taylor, an attorney more than 60 years Jones’ junior who grew up nearby. “There was not a Saturday that went by that I didn’t see Judge Jones out and about.”
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According to Taylor, Jones graduated from Chuckatuck High School in 1939. He received his bachelor’s degree and law degree from the College of William and Mary and also served for three years in the U.S. Navy, achieving the rank of lieutenant.
He started his law practice in Suffolk in 1947 and became trial justice for Nansemond County in 1949. He served in that position until 1954. He later served as Commonwealth’s Attorney for Nansemond County for a number of years and was appointed to the General District Court bench in 1978, where he served until 1991.
Local attorney Jack Eure, also a former Commonwealth’s Attorney for the county, said Jones did a fine job in the constitutional office and on the bench.
“He just had the temperament that’s needed for a good judge,” Eure said. “He listened to everybody and was knowledgeable in the law.”
Eure recalled the ceremony dedicating a portrait of Jones upon his retirement.
“I hope that when y’all look up and see my portrait looking down at you, it will remind you to be good lawyers,” Eure paraphrased Jones saying.
“He was a wonderful fellow,” said Everett Bagnell, also a retired judge. “He loved people. Whenever he was in a crowd of folks, everybody seemed to enjoy it.”
Sam Glasscock, a local lawyer, said Jones applied devotion to his job.
“You felt comfortable being before him, that you were going to get a fair audience and he was going to do what he thought was right,” Glasscock said.
Taylor recalled hearing Jones tell stories about his grandfather, who was a Confederate veteran. Jones was active in the American Legion Post 57, the Tom Smith Camp No. 1702 Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Driver Ruritan Club and the Lions Club, among other organizations.
“He surpassed a number of generations, just the history he’s been exposed to,” Taylor said. “He was a big lover of history. He’s got his own history, and then he’s got the history he was exposed to and saw over the years.”
Suffolk Nansemond Historical Society volunteer Sue Woodward said Jones was a charter member of the society and one of its first presidents.
“He loved history,” she said. “He kind of lived it. He lived where his family had lived for a really long time. He was just immensely interested in his own history and the history of the area he knew so well.”
Recalling Jones’ refinement, Woodward recounted how she would see Jones mow his lawn wearing at least a coat and tie, if not a full suit. She also recalled his devotion to his poodle.
Jones was also active in his church, Glebe Episcopal. Fellow church member John Norcross described him as having “excellent attendance” and also marveled at his stories about Driver.
“Judge Jones was at his best when discussing the history of Driver,” Norcross said. “He had a wealth of good stories, often humorous, connecting the present with the past.”
Jones’ collection of famous autographs, mostly from government officials and foreign heads of state, also is well known. Norcross said many have suggested the collection should be given to the Smithsonian — but Woodward said Jones donated it to the historical society last year.
Taylor summed up Jones’ life in a post on Facebook that included this: “He was undoubtedly a loving husband and father, a devoted Christian, dedicated jurist, a philanthropist and volunteer to many causes, but most of all, he was a true Virginia gentleman.”