Pythias A. Jones Jr., 87, activist and entrepreneur

September 29, 2004

A memorial service for Pythias Alexander Jones Jr., a retired longshoreman, Baltimore community activist and business entrepreneur, will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Union Baptist Church, 1219 Druid Hill Ave.

Mr. Jones, who ran a real estate enterprise, dry-cleaning company and other small businesses, died of complications from dementia Sept. 15 at Joseph Richey Hospice. He was 87.

Known as "PJ," Mr. Jones was a well-respected figure in West Baltimore, where he lived for half a century and helped many families find jobs and homes. Long active in politics, he shared that passion with his children and proudly campaigned in 2001 for his youngest daughter, Democrat Verna L. Jones, as she won a seat in the Maryland Senate.

Born in Kilmarnock, Va., the second of seven children, Mr. Jones was educated in public schools. In 1932 he moved to Baltimore, where he met and married Virginia Ida Frazier, his wife of 58 years. The couple had five children, and in 1956 bought a home on Eutaw Place.

Mr. Jones worked for 45 years as a longshoreman at the marine terminal in Dundalk. He was a union organizer and negotiated contracts for International Longshoreman's Union Local 858, a black union that later merged with the white Local 829. He went on to represent the combined Local 333 at international conventions.

Years ago, Mr. Jones operated a boarding house for an African-American clientele that had trouble finding accommodations in the then-segregated city, and he founded Jones Cleaning and Tailoring Shop, whose customers included the Baltimore Elite Giants Negro leagues baseball team.

Until he became ill with Alzheimer's disease in 1998, Mr. Jones ran Jones and Sons Real Estate, a property development and management company. His wife helped him with the business until her death in 1992 as they fixed up older houses around Eutaw Place and often assisted young families with buying their first homes.

In addition to the state senator, survivors include another daughter, Ernestine Jones Jolivet of Baltimore; two sons, Alvin Alexander Jones of Baltimore and Dr. Pythias Damon Jones of Cleveland; a brother, Vernon Jones of Atlanta; six grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. His eldest daughter, Gilda Delores Garrett, died in 1995.

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