Thomas G. Jones

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Thomas Goode Jones
Thomas Goode Jones.jpg
Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama
In office
December 17, 1901 – April 28, 1914
Appointed byTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byJohn Bruce
Succeeded byHenry De Lamar Clayton Jr.
28th Governor of Alabama
In office
December 1, 1890 – December 1, 1894
Preceded byThomas Seay
Succeeded byWilliam C. Oates
Member of the Alabama House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Thomas Goode Jones

(1844-11-26)November 26, 1844
Macon, Georgia
DiedApril 28, 1914(1914-04-28) (aged 69)
Montgomery, Alabama
EducationVirginia Military Institute
read law

Thomas Goode Jones (November 26, 1844 – April 28, 1914) was an Alabama lawyer and politician and military officer who served in the Alabama legislature an as Governor of Alabama before becoming United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama and the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.[1]

Education and family life[edit]

Born on November 26, 1844, in Vineville (now Macon, Georgia) to Martha Goode (1821-1861) and her husband, railroad builder Samuel Jones (1815-1886), who had moved to Georgia in 1839 to become an assistant engineer on the Monroe Railroad, which soon declared bankruptcy. Despite financial problems around the time of Thomas' birth, Samuel Goode would become engineer on various other railroads in Alabama and Florida, one of Alabama's early industrialists, and (briefly) an Alabama legislator representing Lee County, Alabama. He also remarried during the Civil War, to Aurora Serena Elmore, descended from Rep. Joseph Brevard of South Carolina and who would bear seven boys (Thomas' step-brothers) during their marriage. Shortly before the war began, Samuel Jones completed the Alabama and Florida Railroad which supplied the Confederate Navy Yard in Pennsacola. He also helped establish the Chewacla Lime Works, the Montgomery and Talladega Sulphur Mines and the Muscogee Lumber Company, plus completed a railroad line connecting Montgomery and Selma, Alabama shortly before the Civil War ended, then the Savannah and Memphis Railroad.[2]

The Goodes, even more than the Jones family, were among the First Families of Virginia. John Goode had arrived in Virginia via Barbados before 1661, and established a tobacco plantation in Henrico County. His descendant Samuel Goode of Chesterfield County served as a lieutenant during the American Revolutionary War, and in the Virginia House of Delegates and U.S. House of Representatives. His son Thomas Goode (1787-1858) (Martha's father), helped establish the Homestead European-style spa in Wythe County, Virginia.[3]

The Jones traced their descent from Capt. Roger Jones who commanded a British naval vessel in Chesapeake Bay in 1680 and whose youngest son Thomas settled near Fortress Monroe in what became Brunswick County, Virginia. Thomas' descendant John Jones represented Brunswick County in the Virginia House of Burgesses and became a captain in a Virginia regiment during the American Revolution. His son Dr.Thomas Williamson Jones (1788-1824) graduated from the University of North Carolina before marrying Mary Armistead Goode, and their eldest son Samuel Goode Jones studied at Williams College in Massachusetts and at Newark College (now the University of Delaware) before marrying Martha Goode. Samuel Jones moved his young family to Montgomery, Alabama in 1849 while he was the engineer for the Montgomery and West Point Railroad.[4]

Tom Jones had a sister Mary, who had been born in Atlanta in 1847, and would have five more siblings who survived infancy before the Civil War began, and seven half-brothers from his father's second marriage. In any event, young Tom was not educated at home, but instead sent to Charlottesville, Virginia to study at a preparatory academy run by Charles Minor and Gessner Harrison. Beginning in the summer of 1860, he attended the Virginia Military Institute and fellow cadets elected him as sergeant.[5]

During the Civil War, while in winter quarters in Petersburg, Virginia, Jones had begun studying Blackstone, and after failing as a planter following the war, and while clerking for the Alabama and Florida Railroad thanks to his father, Jones read law first with John A. Elmore, then in a night class with Abram J. Walker, chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.[6]

Military career[edit]

Jones as Confederate officer

South Carolina seceded from the Union before the end of Jones' first semester at VMI. On May 1, 1861, after Virginia's secession vote, about 200 cadets (including T.G. Jones) joined professor (now CSA Major General) Stonewall Jackson in fighting for the Confederacy. He later recalled that his first duty was burying the dead after the Battle of McDowell. The cadets marched with Jackson's men until May 16, 1861, when the school summoned them back, and later awarded them honorary degrees. Meanwhile, Jones returned to Montgomery and enlisted as a private in the Partisan Rangers, Company K of the 53rd Alabama Regiment, but was soon promoted to sergeant. The unit fought at the Battle of Thompson's Station in Tennessee, and Jones received a lieutenant's commission after leading the unit despite his own battle wound, after both the company's captain and lieutenant had been wounded and abandoned the field.

Jones was appointed aide de camp to General John Brown Gordon, and accompanied the Army of Northern Virginia during the Gettysburg campaign, including as a messenger when Gordon requested permission to attack Cemetery Ridge (but was denied) during the Battle of Gettysburg. He also fought in the Siege of Petersburg, the Battle of the Wilderness and Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. Jones also fought with Gen. Gordon during Gen. Jubal Early's campaign which reached the outskirts of Washington DC, and at the defeats in the Third Battle of Winchester and Battle of Cedar Creek in late 1864. During the latter battle, both sides respected Jones's courage for rescuing a girl caught int he crossfire between armies. He also received praise for rescuing a wounded Ohio soldier. Thus Jones fought in the Confederate States Army from 1862 to 1865, rising to the rank of major before on April 9, 1985 physically carrying the truce flag on his sword while under fire delivering Gen. Lee's surrender, and witnessing the final ceremony at Appomattox Court House.[7]

Postwar careers and politics[edit]

Returning from the Civil War, Thomas Goode would claim an inheritance from his mother and purchase 750 acres in southern Montgomery County, Alabama in 1865, but failed as a farmer and moved in with his mother-in-law in Montgomery by 1869. Crushing debts, low cotton prices and the Black Friday (1869) would cause him to lose the farm in 1870.

Meanwhile, Jones became editor of the Montgomery Daily Picayune and also read law in 1868, helping him transition to his later careers. Admitted to the Alabama bar in 1868, Jones began a private legal practice in Montgomery. Until November 1868, Jones worked with Judge Walker's brother, Hal Walker, both as a lawyer and as editor. The Montgomery Daily Picayune allied with the Democratic Party and decried "Negro rule" as well as proposed racial segregation, although (unlike more radical newspapers) it also advocated education for African Americans. Jones also became active in the local Democratic party, initially opposing groups allegedly trying to prevent counting of votes for Democrat Robert B. Lindsay for governor, although others would characterize such efforts as intimidating black voters. Democrats ended Republican rule in Alabama in 1874, after an election in which Jones led about 100 armed Democrats who patrolled Montgomery on Election Day.[8] Jones' appointment as the reporter of decisions for the Supreme Court of Alabama by Chief Justice Elisha Peck also helped sustain his legal practice from 1870 to 1880.[9]

By 1874 Jones joined a law firm with former Alabama Chief Justice Samuel F. Rice, despite Rice's alliance with the Republican party during Reconstruction, although he later resigned during a depot dispute between the city of Montgomery and Rice's client, the South and North Alabama Railroad. The Louisville and Nashville Railroad later became one of Jones' major clients, as were the Capitol City Water Works Company, Western Union Telegraph Company, Southern Express Company and the Standard Oil Company.[10] By 1898, Jones partnered with is half brother Charles Pollard Jones.[11] Jones also wrote one of the earliest codes of legal ethics in 1887, adopted by the Alabama state bar association and incorporated into the American Bar Association Code of Professional Ethics in 1907.[6][12]

After the war, Jones helped organize the Alabama National Guard, although his initial efforts to reorganize the Montgomery True Blues as the Governor's Guards, ended up being disbanded by federal authorities in 1868.[6]

Jones often spoke for reconciliation between North and South, first at a Memorial Day address in 1874 that became widely republished nationwide, and newly elected Governor George S. Houston named Jones his aide-de-camp for military affairs by year's end. In 1877, the Grand Army of the Republic presented Jones with a gold medal for his peace efforts, and he also spoke at Jefferson Davis' last visit to Montgomery in 1886, as well as gave Memorial Day addresses in Atlanta in 1887 and at the tomb of U.S. Grant in New York City in 1902. In 1874, the Governor's Guards had offered their services to Governor Houston, and in 1881 they were officially organized as Alabama state troops. In 1876, Jones resigned his position as aide de camp and became a captain of the Montgomery Greys; four years later the Second Regiment elected Jones as their commander, and he oversaw their use, including to save a black man from lynching during the Posey Riot of December 1883, and a white man in Birmingham in December 1888.[13]

Jones ultimately sought political office as a Democrat. First he served on the Montgomery City Council, representing Ward 4 from 1874 until 1884, when he won election as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives where he served from 1884 to 1888 before declining to seek re-election. During his second term, he became its Speaker (1886 to 1888). He advocated funding the state militia and creating the state capital complex to house state government records. To the surprise of some given his railroad clientele, Jones also cast a tie-breaking vote making railroads liable for work-related injuries, and opposed Governor Edward A. O'Neal's efforts to control the Alabama Railroad Commission. Instead of running for re-election to the legislature, Jones returned to private practice to raise funds to campaign for governor, which proved successful. Defeating farmer Reuben Kolb and several others in the Democratic Convention after several ballots and Republican Benjamin M. Long handily in the general election. Jones served as the Governor of Alabama from 1890 to 1894.[14]

In his first 2-year term as governor, Jones proposed a constitutional amendment to allow long legislative sessions as well as to allow local communities to levy taxes to finance education and internal improvements. He also opposed contrivances to disenfranchise blacks such as educational and property requirements, and denounced proposals to limit tax revenues from white taxpayers for white schools as unconstitutional. Although by no means a racial egalitarian, Jones also opposed Alabama's convict leasing system, despite propaganda that it helped establish white supremacy as well as a frugal state government[15] Ironically, Jones both assumed office during a strike by coal miners who opposed unfair competition from leased convicts (which he initially resolved with the United Mine Workers by appointing a health and safety commissioner), and ended his second term dealing with a strike (by Birmingham miners against the Tennessee Coal Iron and Railroad Company (wherein he called out state troops after hiring of African American scabs provoked violence and Eugene V. Debs widened to join the Pullman Strike).[16] Despite his predecessor Governor Seay's boasts after cutting state taxes, the state was also nearly bankrupt, and the legislature during his second term refused to increase corporate taxes as Jones suggested.

Politics proved tumultuous. Governor Jones's attempts at replacing his former political rival Reuben Kolb as agricultural commissioner in his first term, nearly proved pyrrhic. The Alabama Supreme Court approved the governor's new agricultural commissioner appointee when Kolb refused to vacate at the end of his term, and Kolb running as an Independent for governor in the next general election narrowly lost to Jones, as he had done in the Democratic primary, which Kolb attributed to Jones' overrepresentation in the state's Black Belt.[17] Jones would continue to dispute Kolb's contention that the 1892 election had been stolen until his death, and both the Speaker of the Alabama House Frank L. Pettus and Senate president John C Compton were also from the Black Belt and ignored Kolb's request for investigations. Ironically given his overt white supremist language, Kolb's attempts to link his Farmers' Alliance with the Populist candidate for President, former Union General James B. Weaver, may also have doomed his candidacy, for many Alabamians refused to support either the Republican presidential candidate Benjamin Harrison nor Union General.[18] Tw weeks after Jones announced state troops would remain in Birmingham until the miners strike ended, on August 8, 1894, Reuben Kolb again lost his bid to become Alabama's governor, this time to Democrat William Calvin Oates, who unlike Jones supported the convict leasing system.[19] Expenses incurred during his gubernatorial term would haunt Jones for the rest of his life, and his life insurance went ot pay off the mortgage incurred during his governorship. Thus he did not challenge John Tyler Morgan for the U.S. Senate seat, but continued politically active in support of President Grover Cleveland. Jones became a Gold Democrat rather than support William Jennings Bryan, despite continued criticism from Kolb. However, the Gold Democrats only gathered 6,453 votes in Alabama compared to Bryan's 107,137, so Jones' political capital in the state also seemed used up. He did rehabilitate his political fortunes in 1897 by remaining in Montgomery despite a yellow fever epidemic in the coastal south, and his policies of fumigation, prompt burials and a quarantine supported by armed guards. Although 11 people died in Montgomery and at least 71 in the state

Federal judicial service[edit]

Jones received a recess appointment from President Theodore Roosevelt on October 7, 1901, to a joint seat on the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama and the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama vacated by Judge John Bruce. He was nominated to the same position by President Roosevelt on December 5, 1901. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 17, 1901, and received his commission the same day. His service terminated on April 28, 1914, due to his death in Montgomery.[14]

Although now considered a white supremacist, Jones was initially considered a moderate. He opposed labor unions but supported the 14th Amendment and was a friend of Booker T. Washington. During his tenure, Judge Jones heard civil rights cases and took stands against lynching and refused to allow the state's convict lease system to become de facto slavery. These stands became unpopular in the white community for holding that federal law permitted protection of African Americans.[20]

Death and legacy[edit]

Judge Jones' health deteriorated during the seven years while he oversaw a case whereby railroads contested new rates set by the Alabama legislature, which was twice addressed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and had certiorari denied by the United States Supreme Court. In the winter of 1912-1913 Judge Jones contracted pneumonia and recovered in Florida. Although he returned to his duties in Alabama by November 1913, he again soon took a leave of absence of health reasons. He had been bedridden for weeks before losing consciousness on April 26, 1914, and dying two days later. Hundreds attended his funeral in Oakwood Cemetery, including many African Americans.[21]


  1. ^ Aucoin, Brent J. (Brent Jude),. Thomas Goode Jones : race, politics, and justice in the new South. Tuscaloosa. ISBN 978-0-8173-8988-8. OCLC 950884950.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Aucoin pp. 12-13
  3. ^ Aucoin p. 12
  4. ^ Aucoin pp.6-7.
  5. ^ Aucoin p.7.
  6. ^ a b c "Thomas Goode Jones". Alabama Mens Hall of Fame.
  7. ^ Aucoin pp. 8-11
  8. ^ Aucoin pp. 13-15
  9. ^ Aucoin pp. 51-52
  10. ^ Aucoin p. 18
  11. ^ Aucoin p. 96
  12. ^ Aucoin pp. 19-20
  13. ^ Aucoin pp. 15-17, 22
  14. ^ a b Thomas Goode Jones at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  15. ^ Aucoin pp. 22-32
  16. ^ Aucoin pp. 85-89
  17. ^ Aucoin pp. 46-63
  18. ^ Aucoin pp. 67-69
  19. ^ Aucoin pp. 88, 92-93
  20. ^ Aucoin, Brent (2007). A Rift in the Clouds: Race and the Southern Federal Judiciary, 1900-1910. University of Arkansas Press.
  21. ^ Aucoin pp. 166-168


Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Seay
Governor of Alabama
Succeeded by
William C. Oates
Legal offices
Preceded by
John Bruce
Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama

Succeeded by
Henry De Lamar Clayton Jr.