Missouri’s 10th district, which had the cities of Kennett and Cape Girardeau, was a staunchly Democratic area in 1948, and its representative, Orville Zimmerman, had handily won reelection in years that ate at Democratic numbers in Missouri, such as the 1942 and 1946 midterms. However, he would not get to enjoy the Democratic revival in the state, as he died on April 7th. That upcoming election would return only among the House Republicans Dewey Short of Springfield, a city that remains a Republican stronghold to this day. The beneficiary of this victory in the 10th was Paul C. Jones (1901-1981).
Truman Backer – To A Point
In Jones’ first year in Congress, his record was liberal, backing the Fair Deal proposals of his fellow Missourian, including public housing, but he would prove independent minded by the next year. One subject that he would come to break with Truman on was civil rights. Although he voted for the poll tax ban in 1949, Jones’ district was in an area of Missouri that was culturally Dixie. Therefore, he would oppose Fair Employment Practices legislation and other civil rights measures. Jones would support public housing during the Truman Administration but turn against during the Eisenhower Administration. He was a bit of a maverick but stuck loyally to the traditional Democratic position of lower tariffs and frequently supported increasing foreign aid.
The Lost Causes of Paul C. Jones
Theodore Roosevelt has maintained a great historical popularity, and it was no less so in 1960. However, Jones found it objectionable to establish a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt in the National Capitol, holding that private funds could be used to establish the memorial instead and motioned to recommit the bill on July 1st. He didn’t express any anti-Roosevelt sentiments, simply objecting to public funds being used (Congressional Record). Only 58 other representatives sided with his cause, and President Eisenhower expressed his opposition to Jones’ crusade. Anti-pork legislators H.R. Gross (R-Iowa) and Eugene Siler (R-Ky.) voted to kill this measure as did a number of Southern Democrats. There were also those, notably Leonard Wolf (D-Iowa), who argued against the memorial from a liberal perspective. He questioned spending for this measure when the Eisenhower Administration asserted that the money wasn’t in the budget for additional measures to aid the poor (Congressional Record).
Jones was insistent on maintaining the accountability of elected officials in multiple ways; he proposed to dock pay for members of Congress for missing votes and against the practice of members of Congress bloating the Congressional Record by unlimited insertions. These were really small fries compared to many issues of the day and he voted for measures far more costly than what he railed against, but I suppose someone must push for these things, right?
Jones was on the House Agriculture Committee and there served as a supporter of the intricate system of price supports that makes up American agricultural policy. He was consistently opposed to the Eisenhower Administration’s efforts through Agriculture Secretary Ezra Taft Benson to institute market reforms. Jones was in 1961 the butt of the joke for freshman Congressman Bob Dole. As former Congressman Paul Findley (R-Ill.) (2011) recounted, “One spring day in 1961, Chairman Harold Cooley called on committee members, one after another, to ask questions of the witness, former Governor Orville Freeman of Minnesota, newly appointed as Agriculture Secretary. Cooley asked members to ask only brief questions, nothing more. When Paul [Jones] of Missouri took his turn, he expounded for at least twenty minutes without posing a question. Bob Dole interrupted with these words, “Mr. Chairman, please ask the gentleman to repeat his question.” All laughed except [Jones]” (89)
Opposition to Civil Rights
Among Missourians, Jones stands singularly as the most opposed to civil rights legislation during the civil rights era. He voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the Civil Rights Act of 1960, all anti-discrimination amendments, against the 24th Amendment banning the poll tax for federal elections and primaries.
Jones also, not surprisingly at all, expressed his opposition to the starting gay rights movement. In response to a letter by Franklin Kameny of August 28, 1962, the head of the gay rights advocacy group the Mattachine Society, in advocacy for a change in approach to exclusion of homosexuals from government, he wrote in red ink, “I am unalterably opposed to your proposal and cannot see how any person in his right mind can condone the practices which you would justify. Please do not contaminate my mail with such filthy trash” (Kameny). Kameny, in truth, probably should have not wasted the effort with Jones, who would two years later vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He also voted against the Voting Rights Act of 1965, being the only Democrat in the House outside the former Confederacy to do so. Jones was similarly opposed to fair housing legislation and a bill that would have protected numerous civil rights activities federally from violence.
Increasing Conservatism – Of Jones and His District
During the Eisenhower Administration, Jones proved willing to support a fair amount of legislation expanding government authority and social programs. He supported food stamps, enacting water pollution legislation over Eisenhower’s veto in 1960 and emergency housing legislation also opposed by Eisenhower. However, Jones was also now opposed to public housing and opposed price controls on oil. Jones would oppose the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964 and in 1965 he voted against Medicare but opposed the Republican substitute as well. Although Jones changed a bit during his career, he was always popular in his district. There were elections in which he ran unopposed and he always held opposition to under 40% of the vote. in 1968, Jones opted not to run for reelection and was succeeded by Bill Burlison, a Democrat far friendlier to the national party as well as civil rights. The district’s support of Burlison was based in old habits of voting Democratic, but it would eventually move more in the direction of the conservatism of Jones, electing Republican Bill Emerson over Burlison in 1980. The area has since elected Republicans to Congress. In Jones’ obituary, the Washington Post (1981) noted that an observer had called him an “untiring crusader for lost causes”. This is most fitting for the man who took up causes many would deem too minimal or obscure to take on.
Findley, P. (2011). Speaking out: a Congressman’s fight against bigotry, famine, and war. Chicago, IL: Lawrence Hill Books.
Former Rep. Paul Jones Dies. (1981, February 12). The Washington Post.
H.R. 8665. Establish Memorial to Former President T. Roosevelt in the National Capitol. Motion to Recommit. Voteview.
Kameny, F. (1962, August 28). Letter to the Honorable Paul C. Jones.
Theodore Roosevelt Memorial. (1960, July 1). Congressional Record, Vol. 106, Part 12, 15498-15505.