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Oscar Eve (O. E.) Jones Sr. was a successful Batesville (Independence County) newspaper publisher and a state senator representing Independence and Jackson counties.
O. E. Jones Sr. was born in Newport (Jackson County) on June 20, 1905, to Dr. Oscar Eve Jones and Frances “Fannie” Redman Jones of Newport. He had one brother, Lacy R. Jones. O. E. Jones was educated in the public schools of Newport and received a degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). His mother died when he was in his teens, and his father died about two years later. Jones went to live with his maternal uncle and aunt, Harry Brandenburg and Minnie Redman Brandenburg of Newport.
On January 7, 1926, Jones married Josephine Phillips Carroll of Newport. They had three children.
In 1929, Jones and his wife bought the Batesville Weekly Record newspaper from W. M. Shelby. The Weekly Record was established around 1911 by H. D. Routzong and his son. The paper changed hands a few times before being taken over by Shelby in 1919. Three years after purchasing the Batesville Weekly Record, Jones and his wife bought the Batesville Daily Guard newspaper, which became the Guard Record, from the Trevathan family in 1932. Jones thought the paper needed a new home and moved into the Wade building on Main Street.
Jones became one of the most successful journalists in the state, with a reputation for being fearless and uncompromising. He was a strong supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal. In 1934, while vice president of the Arkansas Press Association (APA), he attended the APA convention in Clarksville (Johnson County), where the organization devoted most of its time to consideration of problems resulting from creation of the NRA (National Recovery Administration) and its costs.
By 1935, as editor of the Guard Record and president of the Arkansas Press Association (1934–1935), Jones had already made a name for himself in the state. He became active in politics as a Democrat. In the 1930s, Jones served for several years as regional information advisor for the Farm Security Administration in Little Rock (Pulaski County). From 1943 to 1945, Jones served in the Arkansas Senate, representing the Twentieth District, comprising Independence and Jackson counties. He was one of five members of the 1945 Senate to win the Statesmanship Award for legislative leadership. He ran for reelection to the state Senate in 1946, facing R. W. Tucker of Batesville and Grover C. Nance of Newport, but he was defeated by Nance. When he was absent from the paper, several capable editors ran the news department of the Guard Record, including Tillman Morgan, Johnny Erp, C. C. Lambert, and Farrell Conner.
Jones entered the Arkansas General Assembly at a time when the Senate was focused on the war effort while also having to care for regular state business. During the 1943 session, for instance, a school lunch program was established and armed service members were made exempt from paying a poll tax, income tax, and in some cases ad valorem taxes. The 1945 session of the Arkansas General Assembly continued to pass war-related legislation. The session also established the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and implemented the Freedom to Work Amendment, commonly referred to as the “Right to Work” amendment, which had been adopted in the general election.
As state senator, Jones was known to support his constituents of Independence and Jackson counties against possible encroachments on their rights and interests, particularly focusing on local farmers and businesses such as the White Lime Company of Batesville. He continued to support the policies and fellow leaders in the Democratic Party. In 1945, he stood up in the state Senate and spoke on behalf of U.S. Senator J. W. Fulbright, who had been verbally attacked by an organization called the Christian American Association. According to the Hope Star newspaper, Jones stated that the primary object of the attacks “was not so much to try to defeat Mr. Fulbright as to lay the foundation for shaking down the…Arkansas business and farming leaders.”
Jones had just finished promoting the White River Water Carnival in the Guard when, on August 6, 1949, he suffered a fatal heart attack. He and his wife, who died in 1996, are buried in the Walnut Grove Cemetery in their hometown of Newport.
Following Jones’s death, his family continued ownership of the Guard. His widow, Josephine Jones, became president of the corporation and served until her death, and their eldest son, James, took over as publisher in 1949, serving until his death in 1962. In a eulogy, Farrell Conner, news editor for the Guard Record at the time of Jones’s death, spoke of Jones as a “crusading editor of the Daily Guard who had the courage to call a spade ‘a spade’; who had the grit to stand up and fight for his convictions; who practiced a fearless brand of journalism so often lacking in small city publishers.”
For additional information:
Allsopp, Fred W. History of the Arkansas Press for a Hundred Years and More. Little Rock: Parke-Harper Pub. Co., 1922.
———. “Independence County Newspapers.” Independence County Chronicle 2 (January 1961): 4–13.
“Courageous Journalist.” Batesville Daily Guard, April 29, 2002.
Hinshaw, Jerry E. Call the Roll: The First 150 Years of the Arkansas Legislature. Little Rock: Rose Publishing, 1986.
Jones, Lacy R., Jr. “The Jones Family.” Stream of History 32 (Winter 1995): 9–14.
McGinnis, A. C. “A History of Independence County, Ark.” Special issue. Independence County Chronicle 17 (April 1976).
Van Buren, Arkansas
Last Updated 3/2/2018
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