ST. PETERSBURG — Former Pinellas County Commissioner and St. Petersburg Mayor Don Jones died Wednesday. He was 92.
Jones served on the City Council from 1963-67 and then served as mayor from 1967-1969. Jones held office during a time of growth and change in the city, especially in regards to civil rights and infrastructure.
"Don was a good man and a consequential and progressive mayor who made a positive impact on our city," Mayor Rick Kriseman said in a Facebook post. "He was a champion for equality, green space, and higher wages for city employees. He came down on the right side of history when sanitation workers protested unfair pay and will forever be remembered for his love of family and St. Pete."
Jones moved to St. Petersburg from Geneva, N.Y., and established an insurance business, according to 2016 profile of him in the Northeast Journal. He was also a pilot and active volunteer in the community. One of his first such roles was to serve as the fundraising chair for the March of Dimes.
After becoming an outspoken advocate to keep Albert Whitted Airport open, a friend on the City Council urged him to run for a seat, according to the Northeast Journal. Thus started his six years of public service in the city.
"Five of those years were years of dramatic progress, accomplishment and growth," Jones told the Northeast Journal in 2016. "The sixth year was a time of stress, tension and confrontation due to the racial climate at that time in St. Petersburg and America."
That sixth year was the St. Petersburg sanitation strike of 1968. A month after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis, the city's mostly African-American workforce of sanitation workers went on strike. There were nonviolent protests and four nights of rioting before the dispute was resolved.
Jones and his wife of 71 years, Mary, had three children — Chip Jones, Doug Jones and Barbara McGregor — along with four granddaughters and four great grandchildren.
"Don Jones will go down in our history as one of the city's great mayors," wrote historian Will Michaels in Kriseman's Facebook post. "He withstood incredible peer pressure and rose far above the conventional beliefs of his time."
At Thursday's City Council meeting, Kriseman read a resolution in honor of Jones and his tenure.
Council member Charlie Gerdes took time to recognize the work Jones did for both integration and better conditions for sanitation workers. Jones supported the striking workers in 1968.
"To have voted to integrate the parks in the city of St. Petersburg should not be lost on us," Gerdes said. "For Mr. Jones to have stood up and to vote out loud and in public in support of integration, in support of the sanitation workers, was a courageous act. It's inspirational.
"I hope all of us and the future leaders of St. Petersburg remember that."
In coordination with the governor’s office, Kriseman directed that the flags in front of City Hall be flown at half-staff through the remainder of the week.