Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg man is the world's highest-ranking Shriner

ST. PETERSBURG — He's the most powerful Shriner in the world.

In the land of red fez, Jack Jones is admired and revered. His title is imperial potentate. His job is president and chief executive officer of Shriners International.

Fancy, yes. But get past that, and you'll find a 77-year-old Air Force vet who likes swimming, barbecues, and lives right here in an Isla del Sol condo.

This month, the other Shriners elected him to a one-year term as chairman of the board for Shriners Hospitals for Children and the international fraternity, which has 350,000 members.

Before that, he spent 30 years as Shriners' high-ranking imperial recorder, a corporate secretary gig.

He enters the top spot at a time of struggle and change: a bad economy and diminishing membership, difficult decisions to downsize some treatment centers and accept insurance money for the first time.

Jones, jovial and chipper, called the Times recently from an airport between Shriners stops to talk about his new position, life and the physics of the fez.

Where are you headed?

I'll be arriving in Wichita, Kan. They're having a Shriners football game for the hospital. A lot of states have them every year. Then, I'm going up to Montana to visit the oldest man in the world, who is also the oldest Shriner in the world. He's going to be 113 in September. I'm going to visit with him and present a plaque to him in appreciation. I want to see if I can find the secret to his longevity.

How tight is the race for high-rank Shriners positions?

When I ran for the recorder position, I did have competition. Oh, yeah. Another recorder from a temple up in Arkansas. I fortunately beat him by a 2-to-1 margin.

And now?

I beat the other person by a 7-to-1 margin.

What's your background?

I had a career in the Air Force. My last assignment was at MacDill Air Force Base. I've been in the Tampa area since 1969. I got sand in my shoes and decided to stay.

I'm in a wheelchair. In 1994, I got Guillain-Barre syndrome. It's debilitating. Another name for it is French polio. Back at one point, (doctors) asked my then-wife to call in the family, because they didn't think I was going to make it. I was paralyzed from the neck down. Now, I have a little bit of movement in my arms. I don't have a lot of grip in my hands. I can't stand or walk. But I travel all over working for Shriners, and I'm on the road a lot. I figure I'm not going to let something like that get me down.

That must give you compassion for kids at Shriners.

Absolutely. And sometimes when I go visit them in the hospital and some of them may be in wheelchairs, I challenge them to a race. The kids just love it. I've got to let them win, but sometimes I give them a pretty close race.

What are your hopes for the coming year?

I want to continue with the leadership of the organization. This past year was a very difficult year with the downturn of the economy. Representatives from all the temples voted on a lot of issues pertaining to running our hospitals. With the downturn in the market and plunge in our endowment fund, we're working to continue to prove that we can do what we need in our various hospitals to try to cut costs and still provide the outstanding and extremely great care to these children.

How does it feel to be the top Shriner on the planet?

With the experience I've had as the imperial recorder, I've been familiar with it. I've had the opportunity to observe our leaders in the past, those who I thought have been really outstanding, and utilize their methods.

But do you ever just think, "This is cool"?

Yes, I do. It is such a great honor, and for the representatives to elect me to this position, it is really tremendous. I'm so proud and happy. I'm going to do my very best this year, and I feel confident.

How often do you sport the fez?

Generally at all official functions. When we have our meetings and parades and banquets. I have a case for it.

Does it stay on your head?

They stay on quite well! They sure do. It's probably a lot better than you would think.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at or (727) 893-8857.


About Shriners

Shriners International is a fraternity based on fun, fellowship and Masonic principles. There are about 350,000 members from temples in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Republic of Panama. Shriners support Shriners Hospitals for Children, providing medical care to young people with ailments including orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate. To become a Shriner, a man must be a Mason, a member of a centuries-old fraternity that began with gatherings of stonemasons and craftsman.

Source: Shriners International

St. Petersburg man is the world's highest-ranking Shriner 07/24/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 11:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes


    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community for the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at DOT's Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Ave. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON | Times]
  2. Florida Orchestra and Tampa Bay Master Chorale scrap search for a joint conductor


    TAMPA — After a yearlong effort, the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay and the Florida Orchestra have abandoned their search for a conductor capable of leading both groups.

    Doreen Rao conducts a concert with the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra in December 2010. Photo by Enid Bloch.
  3. New in theaters July 4 weekend: 'Despicable Me 3,' 'Baby Driver,' 'The House,' 'The Beguiled'


    OPENING Thursday:


    One of Hollywood's most successful animation franchises isn't about "me" anymore; it's about them.

    Gru (Steve Carell) squares off against Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) in Despicable Me 3.
  4. Uhurus cancel Baker protest


    Jesse Nevel's campaign had planned to stage an anti-Rick Baker protest outside the St. Petersburg Yacht Club this evening while Baker held a fundraiser inside.

    Now, that's not happening.

    Jesse Nevel's Uhuru-affiliated campaign postpones protest
  5. Claim: State pressured CFO, used secret recordings to shut down Universal Health Care


    ST. PETERSBURG — The founder of St. Petersburg's Universal Health Care alleges that Florida regulators conspired with the company's chief financial officer to drive the once high-flying Medicare insurer out of business.

    Federal agents raided the headquarters of Universal Health Care in 2013, ordering employees to leave the building. The insolvent St. Petersburg Medicare insurer was then in the process of being liquidated by state regulators.
[DIRK SHADD   |   Times file photo]