"Uncle Ben" is the fond address given by Grenadians to the Honourable Ben Joseph Jones, CMB [Companion in The Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George]. Later in his adult life a street in Grenville was named Ben Jones Street.
Jones was born in Moyah, St. Andrew's in 1924. He died in his sleep at his home in Carriere, St. Andrew's, on 10 February 2005, at the age of 80.
After attending the Belair Presbyterian Primary School, Ben Jones served his duty in the armed forces. In the 1940s, Jones, like many of his fellow countrymen, worked the oil refineries in Aruba. There he met Herbert Blaize. Back in Grenada, Blaize urged Jones to join the Grenada National Party (GNP).
But first Jones wished to study and practice law. He studied at Chriswick Polytechnic, at Grays Inn and the University of London, acquiring a Bachelor of Laws degree. Jones expanded his legal knowledge in London from 1962-1964, the time Maurice Bishop was starting his legal studies that led him also to Grays Inn and the University of London.
In 1964 Jones returned to Grenada to establish a private practice, but moved in 1965 into government service as a Magistrate. He was appointed, in 1966, Senior Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs. He was appointed Opposition Senator from 1967-1979.
At Easter 1973, during the two-day period of the demonstration at Paradise Junction, Grenville and the blocking of aircraft from landing or flying out of Pearls, Ben Jones was there. JEWEL members were protesting the death a couple of days before of Jeremiah Richardson. Jones did not isolate himself from the lives of his neighbours.
During May 1973, Senator Ben J. Jones was part of the Opposition Delegation to London for the Grenada Constitutional Conference held at Marlborough House.
According to the Duffus Report:
Mr. Ben Jones, a barrister and a former magistrate, and a Senator in the Grenada Parliament said he went to the Grenville Court House on November 19, 1973, to represent Maurice Bishop and the five other men about 10:45 a.m.
GNP barristers Hudson Scipio, Ben Jones and Michael Cruickshank gained bail release from jail of six members of the New Jewel Movement - Maurice Bishop, Selwyn Strachan, Hudson Austin, Simon Daniel, Unison Whiteman and Kendrick Radix.
In 1978, Kennedy Budhlall and Lauriston Wilson were charged with the murder of Innocent Belmar who was assassinated the January day Gairy appointed him Minister of Agriculture. Both men were acquitted on all charges. Their defense counselors were Ben Jones and Maurice Bishop.
According to Paul Scoon in his recent book, in 1978 "Ben Jones suffered loss of his boucan by fire of an unknown origin . . ." Jones was a man of the soil, a farmer. One of his daughters, at his funeral, referred to him as the 'Gentleman Farmer'. As Minister of Agriculture he forwarded government incentives to farmers to increase production.
During the time of the People's Revolutionary Government, Jones continued his practice of law, often taking cases pro-bono, or with reduced fees, for clients with meager means. He was a member and former President of the Grenada Bar Association (GBA).
In June 1981, Ben Jones was one of the 26 original shareholders of the newly formed newspaper the "Grenadian Voice".
In 1984, Jones was elected to the House of Representatives winning the St. Andrew's South West constituency under the New National Party (NNP). He served in Legal Affairs as Attorney General, and as Minister of External Affairs, Agriculture and Tourism.
Jones was deputy Prime Minister from 1984-1989. He was a short-term Prime Minister from December 1989 until March 1990. A controversial situation relates to Ben Jones' life during the 1989 NNP Convention. A succinct summary was recently expressed in an editorial opinion from the "Grenada Today" newspaper. The editorial writer, in part, wrote:
It is not surprising that Ben Jones and his political mentor the late Herbert Augustus Blaize decided to form their own political organisation, The National Party (TNP) after the New National Party (NNP) was hijacked by Keith Mitchell and company.
In 1989, Jones was Prime Minister, represented The National Party (TNC), for approximately 100 days. He assumed the position after the death of his friend Herbert Blaize until elections in March 1990. As Prime Minister he was responsible for External Affairs, Finance, Trade, Industry, Planning and National Security.
After the General Election of 1990, Jones was the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Lands and Fisheries.
Jones had a long 20-year career in government service and politics from 1965 until 1991 when he resumed his private practice. The street in Grenville known as Albert Street was remaned in 1994 to honor Ben Jone's legacy.
Jones' last court appearance was in Sauteurs Magistrates' Court in 2001 when he had a stroke. At one point in that December of 2001, Jones was rumored to be dead, but he was hospitalized and recovered. His law office in Grenville continued to be open to all.
An excellent orator, Jones has been described as a mediating man; not seeking confrontation. He is characterized as principled, 'good and decent', a statesman, humble and honest, a man of dignity and integrity, dedicated to his country and the people of Grenada.
Ben Jones is survived by two daughters, Pearl and Patrice, and his grand-children. His extended family includes the Jones, Smith and Gellineau families. A state funeral, with a packed sanctuary and additional outside seating, of friends and worldwide dignitaries, was held 22 February 2005 at St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church.