The man who spent most of his adult life fighting for South Monroe’s survival died Tuesday night after being injured in a fall Sunday.
Reverend Ray Jones, Jr., 72, a candidate for Monroe City Schools, died Tuesday, August 7, in the Veteran’s Hospital in Alexandria.
He was being treated for injuries he sustained after a fall early Sunday morning.
According to family members, Reverend Jones was loading campaign signs onto a truck at his residence and fell. He hit his head in the fall and injured his spine. Family members estimate that it was about 20 minutes before he was found and another 15 minutes before EMS arrived.
Rumors spread that the outspoken poor people’s advocate was brain dead, but soon after he opened his eyes and looked around, dispelling that notion. He was airlifted Sunday to Alexandria but by Tuesday doctors were unable to save him because the loss of oxygen to his brain was so long.
Reverend Jones was an advocate for poor people for decades. He regularly appeared before the Monroe City Council advocating economic changes to help expand black businesses and job opportunities in South Monroe.
Reactions to the sudden death of the outspoken activist was a mixture of shock and sorrow.
City Councilwoman Juanita Woods said, “The community is truly saddened by the loss of Mr. Ray Jones. His commitment and love for the community will truly be missed.”
Charles Theus, executive director of the Southside Economic Development District said, “Ray was a pioneer for economic development and community service, he will be missed by his friends and the SEDD.”
Former city councilman Ray Armstrong said, “Monroe will suffer an irreplaceable loss with the passing of Reverend Jones. His tireless energy to make a better place for Monroe was shown in his fight for the hotel tax for SEDD, Arizona Street Building and his offer to show citizens how to succeed. He knew Louisiana Statues by heart and often recited them. He was running for school board in his tireless efforts for our children. We will have a hard time finding anyone with his unselfish drive and love for his fellow citizens.”
City councilman Eddie Clark said, “Our city has definitely lost a community giant and servant who tirelessly fought for the underserved and underprivileged. Rev. Jones truly cared about leveling the economic field in our community and removing the divide that non one talks about between North Monroe and South Monroe. May God keep his family through this difficult time, wrap them up in his care, and bless them for the works of a true servant.
Marie Brown, a community activist said, “He was my friend and mentor. I will miss my morning texts of wisdom and information on how to move this city forward.”
Fight for the SEDD
When the city council appointed him to the board of the Southside Economic Development District, he immediately became both a spark plug and a lightning rod. He convinced the public of the potential of the SEDD District and shocked the city when he declared he would seek a public vote to implement a hotel tax to begin the process of helping the area.
He became a lightning rod when his plan to help South Monroe clashed with Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo who initially opposed the SEDD hotel tax and moved to remove Jones from the SEDD and to stop the hotel tax. Relentless, Jones secured a building on Martin Luther King Drive and opened the SEDD headquarters only to clash with Mayo again. The City sued Jones and seized the building.
Ironically, the SEDD concept which lay dormant for 15 years was revived because of Rev. Jones and the hotel tax the city initially fought against as “ridiculous” was passed by voters last year.
Reverend Jones promoted economic prosperity for African Americans using biblical principles of self-help and enterprise. His ministries were conducted through the “Biblical Way Management Systems, LLC.” He focused on using provisions of state and local laws to help the poor in the area.
Jones was a walking encyclopedia of state and local laws. He quoted the bible and detailed provisions of state and local laws at the same time. Begining at 4 a.m. each morning he sent text messages to civic leaders urging them to remember the poor and to help the Southside.
It was his knowledge of state law that helped him trigger interest in the SEDD by the general community.
Like biblical prophets, Rev. Jones was often ignored by political powers, so he sought ways to get his voice heard about the potential for growth of the Southside. He waged a campaign to become a city council member against Councilman Eddie Clark; he had nothing to say against Clark, he used the campaign to speak about Southside possibilities and its potential for economic growth.
Last month he qualified for Monroe City School Board against Brenda Shelling. The campaign would be a pulpit for him to promote Southside growth through the establishment of covenant agreements to promote entrepreneurial training of students. Win or lose, he wanted to show how the school board could help revitalized South Monroe by redirecting its resources to include business development and ownership possibilities for graduates.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete as of press time Wednesday.