Ed Jones, 87, a west Tennessee Democrat who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 20 years before retiring in 1989, died of a heart ailment Dec. 11 in a nursing home in Dyer, Tenn. He lived in Yorkville, Tenn.
Mr. Jones, known as "Mr. Ed" to his constituents in Tennessee's 8th Congressional District, devoted the bulk of his House career to agricultural issues. When he retired, he was the third-highest ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee and chairman of its subcommittee on conservation, credit and rural development.
He left his mark in major pieces of legislation dealing with agricultural issues ranging from farm credit programs to crop insurance. Mr. Jones, a lifelong dairy farmer, was a legislative friend of the family farmer. He was interested in legislation to improve soil- and water-conservation programs and sponsored the Conservation Reserve Program.
He was an avuncular congressman who was able to influence votes and opinions on both sides of the aisle in quietly crafting agriculture legislation. He devoted his career to agriculture and constituent service, rarely taking the lead in other areas of legislation.
In 1984, he chaired Albert Gore Jr.'s first U.S. Senate campaign.
Mr. Jones, a Yorkville native, worked his way through the University of Tennessee by milking cows. After graduating in 1934, he joined the Tennessee Agriculture Department as an inspector in its insect and plant diseases control section. He worked for the Tennessee Dairy Products Association from 1941 to 1943, then was an agricultural agent with the Illinois Central Railroad until winning his congressional seat in 1969.
From 1949 to 1953, he took leave from the railroad to serve as Tennessee's agriculture commissioner. From 1961 to 1969, he chaired the U.S. Agriculture Stabilization and Conservation State Committee for Tennessee.
He was elected to Congress on March 25, 1969, to fill a seat left vacant by the death of Robert A. Everett (D). Mr. Jones won with 48 percent of the vote, defeating a Republican candidate who was supported by visits of national Republican leaders, and an American Independence Party candidate who was vocally supported by Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace.
Mr. Jones rarely had electoral difficulties after that election.
After retiring from Congress, he farmed, did some public relations consulting work and was active in civic and volunteer groups in Tennessee. He had served as trustees board chairman of Bethel College in McKenzie, Tenn.
Survivors include his wife, Llewellyn, of Yorkville; a daughter, Dr. Jennifer Jones Kinnard of Memphis; a brother; and a granddaughter.
Another daughter, Mary Llew Jones McGuire, died earlier.