In Memoriam for Thomas Jones

  • The Passing of Thomas O. Jones, WHF Class of 1966-67

    The White House Fellows Foundation and Association regrets the passing of Tom Jones of the WHF Class of 1966-67. His family prepared the following words in celebration of his life. Also included below are remembrances from several of Tom’s Classmates and other White House Fellows.

    Thomas O. Jones died peacefully at his home on Wednesday, February 5, 2020.

    Tom was born in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1932 to Paul and Kitty Jones. He graduated from LaSalle High School and received a BS degree in engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1954. After serving with the 2nd Armored division of the U.S. Army, stationed in Germany, from 1954 to 1956, Tom returned to Penn to earn his MBA from the Wharton Graduate School of Business in 1958. He began his career in the computer industry with the IBM Corporation in Philadelphia. In 1966, Tom was selected to become a White House Fellow under President Lyndon Johnson, and served as a special assistant to HEW Secretary John W. Gardner.

    After the Fellowship year, he was recruited to become Director of Management Systems and Vice President at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, a large NYSE investment banking firm. From 1973 to 1984, he founded and became CEO of Jones Health Systems Management, Inc., an information services company which developed analytical software for the healthcare industry and managed hospital IT departments.

    Tom played an active role in the computer industry in which he held a number of executive positions. He most recently served as President and CEO of Fifth Generation Computer Corporation (“FGC”). Significant projects include collaborations with entities such as AT&T and DARPA in the development of large-scale parallel processing systems for which the Company was assigned three significant patents. FGC was recognized as an early leader in developing and deploying speech recognition applications in the public telephone network, utilizing and adapting an early version of Carnegie Mellon’s CMU Sphinx software.

    At the end of his college years he became active in applying his knowledge of computer technology to build community-based information systems to serve neighborhood organizations. For his work in suburban Philadelphia he was named the Outstanding Young Man of the Main Line in 1966. After moving to New York City, he became very active in the community, serving as President of the West 22nd St. block association and as a member of the Chelsea-Clinton Community Planning Board and the NY State Advisory Council on Education. Tom was a long-time member of the Union League of Philadelphia, the New York Athletic Club and the Wharton Graduate Emeritus Society. Tom was also a member of the IEEE, the New York Academy of Sciences, and the Licensing Executives Society.

    He is survived by his partner, Linda Metakis (Marc, Courtney and Jason); his three children, Susan (Michael), Tom (Mitsue and Stephanie) and Andrew (Cara); their mother, Mary Lou Russell, and his older brother, Hugh (he was predeceased by his two sisters, Beatrice Goodall and Dierdre Mecke).

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    Remembrance from Walt Humann (Class of 1966-67): Tom Jones was a special person and a credit to the White House Fellows program. He was funny, optimistic, and creative, and he was a friend. We worked on a couple of projects together. His vision was always right on target, his tenacity constant, and his ability to roll with the punches superb. We will miss him terribly.

    Remembrance from John McCarter (Class of 1966-67): When we were at Airlie, the betting never took into consideration all FOUR candidates from IBM but they all survived the cut…Tom, Jane, Bill, and Mike. Tom was up in NYC at United Nations so we didn’t see him and Mary Lou as often as the crowd in DC. But field trips to Chicago, NY Times, and Huntsville enabled his participation. Understated. Sense of humor. Technical brilliance. Whimsical. Always on the alert for the unique and unusual. A wonderful man! John

    Remembrance from Harold Palmer Smith, Jr. (Class of 1966-67): I always enjoyed Tom’s effervescent personality – never more so than when we worked together on “Fifth Generation,” although I should note that Marian worked with Tom more closely than I. One cannot help but appreciate the “David and Goliath” nature of his decade-long fight with IBM for the rights associated with Fifth Generation. “David” didn’t win, but he didn’t lose, either. I admired greatly the way Tom fought the battle. It showed his can-do attitude that I so admired.

    Remembrance from John Basset (Class of 1966-67): I felt a special bond with Tom. My brother, Ben, suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for years and, like Tom, recently lost his life because of it. It was indeed heart wrenching to know that Tom had to live with the disease for so many years. It was always uplifting to be around Tom, who could effortlessly find humor in almost any situation. I, like many other Fellows, was fortunate to have had a strong rapport with Tom, due in large part to that sense of humor. Tom possessed a unique combination of being both bright and candid on the one hand and humble and thoughtful on the other. The world will not be the same without Tom! -JB

    And here is the story my classmates asked me to share about Tom:

    On the evening of November 2, 1966, we WHFs and spouses dined at a hotel on Dupont Circle with a renown Richard Neustadt (“Richard”), a political scientist who specialized in the Presidency. In 1960 he published a book (renown in the world of political science) entitledPresidential Power. The book reportedly had substantial influence on JFK in forming his White House staff.

    As Richard continued to speak after dinner, we were all suffering from unrelenting bladder pressure. However, none of us had the courage to get up and look for a rest room (in deference to the speaker, of course). We later found out that in order to get to the nearest restroom, one would find it necessary to create a commotion: interrupt Richard, stand up, weave through the crowded chairs, walk by the speaker’s platform and exit the room. The room had only one door with no sign (the “Mystery Door”), which became more attractive as our bladder pressure increased. At last, with an expression of supreme confidence, Tom got out of his chair and headed for the Mystery Door, the interior of which was out of Richard’s view. Then, . . . . . . . . .nothing! Tom was stunned with what he saw. Hanging on the door of the closet were brooms, mops, buckets, etc., revealing that it was merely a broom closet with no light. After assessing the situation for what seemed like an eternity, Tom confidently walked into the closet and closed the door. Then there was silence (except for Richard).

    After about 10 long minutes, the door opened and Tom, with a strained poker face, nonchalantly marched to his chair and sat down. Being unaware of the crisis, Richard continued his presentation to the end.

    Of course, the unsolved riddle of this tale is and always has been . . . . . . . . .what did Tom do all that time in the closet??!!

    Remembrance from Mollie Fair (former wife of Charlie Ravenel of the WHF Class of 1966-67): Oh John, that is fantastic! What recall! I can still remember how we were all bursting at the seams trying not to laugh out loud from the moment Tom opened the door, revealing the broom closet to us but not the speaker. My sides are aching now with the memory. Mollie

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    We extend our deepest condolences to Tom’s family, and to his White House Fellow classmates.

    posted: February 28, 2020
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