Former 8th district congressman Ed Jones, who helped craft landmark federal legislation establishing modern farm policy and conservation programs, has been inducted into the Tennessee Agricultural Hall of Fame.

“For those of us in agriculture, Congressman Jones was larger than life. I personally knew him and remember him visiting our family farm in rural West Tennessee when I was a just boy,” said Hall of Fame board chairman and state Agriculture Commissioner Terry J. Oliver.

“He was always an advocate for the farmer and had a profound impact not only on Tennessee, but national farm policy that still ensures food security today. I’m pleased the board has recognized his service in this way.” 

Hall of Fame board members recently met at Ellington Agricultural Center in Nashville and unanimously chose to honor Jones, who passed away in 1999, as one of only 13 inductees in the Hall’s 74-year history. Tennessee is one of the few states in the nation that honors individuals who have rendered distinguished service to the science and art of agriculture.

A farmer until the end

Jones began and ended his career as a farmer. He was first elected to Congress to represent rural northwest Tennessee in 1969, serving 10 terms and retiring in 1989 as the Senior Democrat in the Tennessee Congressional Delegation. As a longtime member of the House Agriculture Committee, Jones is best known for his non-partisan approach to politics. He authored several key pieces of farm legislation including laws to reform the nation’s Farm Credit System and establishing the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation and Conservation Reserve Program.  

“It was truly a job of a lifetime to work for Congressman Jones,” said Dr. James Culver, Nashville businessman and onetime congressional aide to Jones. “Once you worked for Mr. Ed, you were a member of the family. I believe his greatest legacy, aside from being a farmer, was his ability to reach across the aisle to work for what was truly in the best interest for rural Tennessee and rural America.” 

Born in Yorkville, Tenn. in 1912, Jones earned a degree from the University of Tennessee and worked as a state dairy inspector. Following a career with the Illinois Central Railroad, Jones served as one of Tennessee’s youngest commissioners of Agriculture from 1949 to 1953. 

In the 1940s and 1950s, Jones built his Yorkville family farm operation into one of the leading Jersey dairy genetic improvement programs in the nation, helping to pioneer the now common practice of artificial insemination. 

The Tennessee Agricultural Hall of Fame was established in 1937 by an act of the legislature and is housed at the Tennessee Agricultural Museum in Nashville, where it is viewed by more than 20,000 visitors each year. Other notable Tennesseans commemorated in the Hall of Fame include President Andrew Johnson, author of the agricultural survey; Dr. Marion Dorset, developer of the hog cholera serum; D.M. Clements, first vocational agriculture teacher in the nation; and Mrs. Ethel Bond, advocate for farm families and rural health. 

Jones’ induction will be commemorated with a bronzed relief sculpture to be placed on permanent display at the museum in a ceremony to be determined later.

To learn more about Jones and the Hall of Fame, visit the Tennessee Agricultural Museum’s website at http://tnagmuseum.org/halloffame.html.