Longtime car dealer, community volunteer dies at 69
By Matthew Whittle And Steve Herring
Published in News on January 4, 2010 1:46 PM
Bobby Kenneth "Deacon" Jones, 69, who died Saturday in Orlando, Fla., is being remembered as a "local legend" who cared about people and whose professional, civic and philanthropic work was felt on the local and state levels.
Jones opened a used car lot in Princeton in 1970, growing it into 12 dealerships today including three in Goldsboro -- Deacon Jones Ford Lincoln Mercury, Deacon Jones Nissan and Deacon Jones Kia.
Jones died of complications from a Christmas Day heart attack Saturday evening in Florida where he spends the winter.
"It is a great loss," said Janet Pipkin, marketing director, who has worked for the family-owned business for 22 years. "He was a legend in his own time. It was an honor and privilege (to work for him).
"He cared about others. He gave to others in need. Often times he would do it and people would not know where it came from. That shows his true character. He cared about people."
Ms. Pipkin said Jones had flown to Florida late Christmas Day where he suffered a heart attack. Ms. Jones said she was uncertain whether Jones underwent surgery that night or the next morning.
He died Saturday at 5:55 p.m.
Corbett Cummings, of Pikeville, manager of Deacon Jones Clearance Center in Princeton, said he last saw Jones the Wednesday before Christ-mas. "He was his normal self the last I saw him."
"He built this business from the ground up," Cummings said. "He started with just a few cars on a lot in Princeton. He was what everyone in the car business strives to be.
"Deacon was one of a kind. There will never be another. He was pretty much a local legend."
Jones was more than just a businessman, however, Cummings said.
Jones was very active in his church, Princeton Church of God, and had served on the board of trustees. Recently, he and his family had started their own ministry, which was still in the early stages.
Cummings described Jones as a "big church man, strong in his beliefs, very deeply rooted in his beliefs.'
"Even though his name was well-known, he knew where he came from," Cummings said "As big as he was, he was one of the small guys. He was your friend, as well as your boss and owner."
He said Jones would call to just talk, check on how business was, but always asked about family.
"It's not just going to affect people on the local level," he said. "There's folks all over that are going to be affected."
That includes people in Florida where Jones spent his winters and bought cars, Cummings said.
"He gave back to the community -- gave more than what a lot of people even realize," he said.
Much of Jones' philanthropic work was all behind the scenes, he said
"Deacon was a Christian man and everything he did demonstrated his Christianity," said Kay Carroll who served for eight years with Jones on the Johnston County Board of Education.
As a 20-year board member, Jones was always concerned about the individual, student or staff member, Carroll said.
"He was always concerned about the individual -- about how the decision was going to affect students or if it was personnel, how it would affect that individual," he said. "A lot of time people lose that focus."
As a school board member, Jones was a staunch proponent for vocational education, Carroll said.
"He wanted to make sure that we had a strong vocational educational program and to make sure that communities had good school facilities," he said.
Carroll said he also did business with Jones' auto dealerships and that Jones and his family wanted to make people happy.
He recalls how Jones' family brought a musical program to the county several years ago.
"He and his family provided one of the greatest tributes at Christmas as to what Christmas was all about," Carroll said. "He made a great impact on the county and the state. He was known for his philanthropy. We will miss him."
Richie Brady, who last June opened his own car business, worked for Jones for 10 years. Brady said the Jones family had been concerned about him and his family and had extended a hand when they struck out on their new venture.
Brady said Jones' success was something that he and others coming out of school could look up to and strive to achieve.
Jones was a "determined man," Brady said.
"If you had doubts, he could show you a way it could be done," he said. "Then there is his continuing sacrifices to benefit other people. His story goes on because of the dreams he made come true for other people. The list just goes on and on."