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Interview with Wilbur D. Jones Jr.,  April 23/24, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Wilbur D. Jones Jr.,  April 23/24, 2008
April 23/24, 2008
In this interview, author and Wilmington notable Wilbur Jones discusses his childhood and adolescence in Wilmington, his experiences in the U.S. Navy, and his long political career, which includes doing advance work for the White House under the Nixon and Ford Administrations.
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Interviewee: Jones, Wilbur Interviewer: Jones, Carroll Date of Interview: 4/22/2008 Series: SENC Notables Length 180 minutes

Carroll Jones: Today is Tuesday, April 22, 2008. I'm Carroll Jones with Chris Malpass for the Randall Library Oral History project and we're taping in special collections. Our interview guest today is Wilmington native, Wilbur D. Jones, Jr. whose roots are found in New Hanover, Onslow Counties and Jones Counties in Southeastern North Carolina. He attended Forest Hills School, UNC Chapel Hill, went to Officer Candidate School, commissioned ensign in the Navy and traveled the world. His travels continued while involved in state and national politics, the Department of Defense in researching material for books on Civil War and World War II history. Since returning to Wilmington, he has written two books on Wilmington home front and is involved in preserving World War II local history. Good morning Wilbur and thanks for visiting us.

Wilbur Jones: Good morning. Is today the 22nd or the 23rd of April?

Carroll Jones: You're correct as always. It is the 23rd. Thank you for that.

Wilbur Jones: Well, you're certainly welcome. We're off to a great start.

Carroll Jones: Tell us about growing up in Wilmington, the influence of your parents, any mentors you may have had, friends, teenagers, etcetera.

Wilbur Jones: I was born in James Walker Memorial Hospital, which is long since gone. It was, of course, torn down when the new New Hanover Regional Medical Center was built in the 1960s. I was born in Marion's Front Annex on July 9, 1934, right in the middle of the depression. My mother was a native of Wilmington, Viola Meryl Jones. She grew up on the north side on North 5th street. My father was the son of a tenant farmer in Onslow County and had served in the United States Navy during World War I as a hospital corpsman down in the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean with the 6th Marine Regiment. So, I was the brother of my sister, Elizabeth Jones. She was born in 1922, shortly after my parents were married here in Wilmington. Dad came here after the war, after World War I and met mother during the war. She was about 14-years old and he was 11 years older when they met, and so I guess in those days it didn't create quite the sensation it might today. But they fell in love and when mother was 16-years old she and dad were married. My father was in the savings and loan business for oh, it seemed like forever, for 44 years. He was also associated with Carolina Building and Loan, later Carolina Savings and Loan Association downtown. My father also was associated with Morfonville [ph?] Realty Company and Morris Insurance Agency. So in his business he could sell you a house, give you the mortgage and then insure the dad gum place, all in one stop right at the corner of Second and Princess Street downtown and that building is still there by the way. I was very proud of my parents. Neither one of them had an education past the eighth grade, and I always marveled at how my father was able to succeed in business and in civic activities to which he contributed a great deal as a World War I veteran with the American Legion, with the Wilmington Exchange Club, with his church, St. Andrews Covenant Presbyterian and also in a number of benevolent activities. He was very, very active on the home front in World War II and my mother as well. Her lack of an education probably prevented her from achieving some of the things that she wanted to do. My mother was a headline reader, might also read the caption under the headline. But my father never got involved in politics, but he knew what was going on. He knew people all over the state and was state commander of the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows back in the 1930s. He was local commander of American Legion Post 10. My mother was very active in the American Legion Auxiliary with the North Carolina Cirrhosis. And during World War II, one of the things that I'm very proud of what they did in World War II because that was really where I spent my formative years growing up here. In World War II she was a Red Cross nurse's aide and worked at the James Walker Memorial Hospital and also at the prisoner of war dispensary out at what was then Bluethanthal Field during World War II. She achieved more volunteer hours than any Red Cross's nurse's aide during the war and she was cited. The yearbook of the nursing school was devoted to her.

Carroll Jones: Which we have a copy of that here in special collections.

Wilbur Jones: Yes, in 1946 and I've always been very, very proud. She had wanted to be a nurse but she didn't have the education to proceed. But the thing that I remember the most about my parents and they are both buried at Oakdale Cemetery and I visit them often. The thing I respect and appreciate more as, even more as the years go by was the fact that they raised me properly. And they disciplined me. They taught me to be independent. I was a mother's boy for a long time until I was able to get a commission in the Navy and then called her on the day I was commissioned and said, "Mother I'm cutting the cord." But I was taught and raised to be independent.

Carroll Jones: How many years difference between you and your sister?

Wilbur Jones: Eleven years difference.

Carroll Jones: Eleven, I thought it was 12.

Wilbur Jones: You're right, 12 years difference.

Carroll Jones: That's a big difference.

Wilbur Jones: Yes it was. And my sister and I didn't have an awful lot in common when I was growing up because of the huge difference. We lost a little sister between the two of us, and consequently when I was born my mother was sure that God had answered her prayers and given her another child. And so as a result, I was sort of babied and protected for awhile and then cut loose. But my parents were very moral. They were very ethical. They had extremely high standards. Even without an education they insisted that I get an education. My father paid for my education at North Carolina.

Carroll Jones: When you say North Carolina, are you speaking Chapel Hill? In today's world you have to.

Wilbur Jones: Well yeah, maybe today's world with all of the different campuses of the University of North Carolina. But there is only one University of North Carolina and I really don't give a damn what the UNCW or Charlotte or anything else thinks. There is only one Carolina and that just happens to be in Chapel Hill. That's where I went to school. That's what my diploma says, University of North Carolina. When you look at the basketball rankings, the team on top is not University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It's North Carolina. Okay, we can dispense with that. My father paid for my education and I helped out by selling football game programs. And I worked during the summer and after school and such but that's another part of the story. But getting back to my parents...

Carroll Jones: Your father must have had tremendous drive and had been raised right too, because he did rise to be President of Carolina Savings and Loan.. Right?

Wilbur Jones: Yes he did with only an eighth grade education.

Carroll Jones: But he did go to a technical school for accounting?

Wilbur Jones: Yeah, he went to a business school in Alexandria, Virginia and learned accounting and after World War I and then came to Wilmington.

Carroll Jones: What was his role with Morfonville? I know they build Forest Hills where you grew up.

Wilbur Jones: Well, Morfonville had a hand in Forest Hills. They built the area called Beaumont, which was the Wayne Drive area from Market Street. It looped around Burnt Mill Creek over to Forest Hills School. That area was all called Beaumont. And of course during the war that's where we boys fought our battles in the South Pacific with the Marines and in Europe with the GIs slugging through France and Germany because there was nothing there but woods and dairies and a farm or two. But my father did rise to become chief executive of the Savings and Loan, which is where he concentrated most of his activity. He was in business with Lloyd Moore and W.A. Fonville and after the war, W.A. Fonville's sons, Alec Fonville, Jr. and Gene Fonville joined the firm, also his brother W.A.'s brother, Louis Fonville was all -- they was all principals. And the interesting connection that I have with the Fonville family is that today one of my good friends is Chris Fonville who was Gene Fonville's son, and Gene and Alec and also Lloyd Moore were all part of that firm, were well established Wilmington names from established families and they were all in World War II. Gene Fonville fought with the 7th Army Division in France and Belgium, and participated in the Battle of the Bulge as a matter of fact, and Lloyd Moore and Alec Fonville, Jr. served in the Pacific on ships and motor torpedo boats. The reason I know that degree of detail is because of the research I've done on War Time Wilmington. We were all very well connected, almost like one large family and Dad was in business with the Fonvilles and the Moores for so long that it was, they were almost like an extended family.

Carroll Jones: Before we go on, let's talk a little bit about, you grew up in Forest Hills. What was it like? It wasn't fully developed I those days, was it? And it was a new area outside the city limits?

Wilbur Jones: Yes, it was all outside the city limits. When I was a boy growing up, the city limits of Wilmington were really quite restricted. Of course, the river on the west, the Cape Fear River, on the North it was Hilton Park where the world's largest living Christmas tree is. On the south it was Greenfield Lake, and before one got to Sunset Park. And then on the east, believe it or not, 17th Street. So that everybody else lived in New Hanover County and of course, we did, we had a Wilmington mailing address in Forest Hills. But Forest Hills started being developed in the late 1920s and the boom in Forest Hills was in the 1930s. And the two principal streets, of course, were Colonial Drive and Forest Hills Drive and then the connector, Guilford Avenue. And my parents, I was born in '34, and in '36 we lived on Pender Avenue. The 2100 block of Pender Avenue. And in 1936, we moved to 102 Colonial Drive which is at the corner of Guilford Avenue and Colonial. That house still stands today, the Stanley [ph?] family has been living there for many years.

Carroll Jones: The whole area seems to have not only survived but thrived.

Wilbur Jones: Well, it has survived because the houses are all different and there was no cookie cutter. And they were all built individually for the property owner. And in our neighborhood, we had some of the leading citizens of Wilmington. For example, the Lennon family, Alton Lennon became, he was a U.S. Congressman. He was appointed U.S. Senator. Very, very popular and very achieving attorney. And the Lennon Federal Building in downtown Wilmington is named for him. J.W. Grice [ph?] who was the assistant principal of schools lived in our neighborhood. Lots of very important people because it was an upscale neighborhood. It was outside the city limits. It was along with the Oleander neighborhood between the present Oleander Drive and Wrightsville Avenue. That area, around the Cape Fear Country Club, were considered the real upscale sections of New Hanover County.

Carroll Jones: Do you know any families that remain in their family homes over there in the Forest Hills area?

Wilbur Jones: Well, I know one and that's the Allsbrook family. The only survivor is - the two survivors are Ogden Allsbrook whose father was O.O. Allsbrook, Red Allsbrook. He was affiliated with White's Ice Cream and Milk Company and then became mayor of Wilmington after the war. Oggie Allsbrook still lives, and I see him occasionally and he still owns the property on Colonial Drive. Until just a couple weeks ago, Clara Copeland owned the same house that she had lived in with her family when I was growing up near the corner of Forest Hills Drive and Guilford Avenue.

Carroll Jones: I heard the McCatherine family have still not sold that property.

Wilbur Jones: Well, the Walter McCatherine family still owns the property right behind my house on Guilford Avenue. But there is one other and it's Bob McCumber lives across the street on Colonial Drive from where I used to live. And his father was a Colonial in the Army during World War II, and Bob was a few years behind me. I see him occasionally and remind him of the fact that the large lawn they have in front of their house was a victory garden in World War II. So we have the Allsbrooks and the McCumbers.

Carroll Jones: What was it like living in Wilmington when you were in grade school and high school? What did you all do for fun? What kind of activities, because what was the population at that time?

Wilbur Jones: Well, the population of Wilmington and New Hanover County at the time, in 1941, right at the time World War II started, were 34,000 and 43,000. Wilmington and New Hanover County. And that was before, of course, the boom and the military coming into town, living, and the shipyard workers and other transient workers and such and of course, World War II is another story. But there wasn't an awful lot to do as a kid. I was considered, because of where I was being raised, I was considered privileged. My friends were all in Forest Hills, Brookwood area. Keaton, Kenwood, Brookwood Avenue, Borden Avenue, over in that area. That was our extended neighborhood. And then over into Oleander, all the way over to the Cape Fear Country Club. That was sort of my world. And we had a bicycle and if you could peddle real fast, you could get somewhere quicker than somebody who couldn't. And that's how we got around. We didn't have mothers driving us to and from school. We walked to school, walked down to Forest Hills School. And sometime on the way home you'd get your butt beaten up by some kids from say over around Mercer Avenue and East Wilmington or over around the Milltown, Delgado [ph?]and the kids who went to Washington Catholic School would sometime come over and maraud us. They'd try to interrupt our football games and our war games, and then beat the heck out of us. And in those days I was a little bit wimpish. Little did I know I'd turn out to be 41 years in the Defense Department. I wish I could see those kids today.

Carroll Jones: Were there any organized sports or anything like that?

Wilbur Jones: Well, yes there were. There were organized sports. On a Saturday morning, we'd meet out on the Cape Fear Country Club Golf Course right off of Gillette Drive, I mean off Country Club Road, and play football on the golf course. On the green. With pads and cleats and we'd play.

Carroll Jones: I bet you were really welcomed by those people.

Wilbur Jones: We were welcomed by the golfers. They'd throw balls at us, and we'd run off into the woods and then when they were gone, we'd come back and we would...

Carroll Jones: That was organized sports?

Wilbur Jones: That was organized. We organized it on our own. But we started playing football really at the end of the war and as we got bigger, when I was 11, 12, 13 years old. But in Forest Hills, you asked about the development. Forest Hills today is about what it was in those days. There have only been just a few houses built that, believe it or not, on Forest Hills Drive and Colonial Drive, since World War II. And we had a bus line that ran out to Wilmington, I mean out to East Wilmington and on down to Wrightsville Beach. We'd go stand up there on the corner of Market Street and catch a bus downtown. And on Saturday's, during the war, we would not depend on our parents to drive us around, but we'd hop on the bus and, with maybe fifty cents in our pocket and spend almost all day downtown at the Bijou Theatre or the Bailey or the Carolina Theatre, or the Royal, and see the Movie Tone News and follow what was happening in World War II, the serials, the comics and the serials that would go from week to week that would take about ten minutes and you couldn't wait for the next one to come out and see how it went. And then we'd watch a movie of Tarzan or Randolph Scott riding a pony or something. And we would eat popcorn and candy and then come home and play and run it all off.

Carroll Jones: How about going into your teenage years? Compare it to today's kids or your children growing up as teens. And I guess New Hanover High School was the only high school in town.

Wilbur Jones: The only white high school.

Carroll Jones: Right. It was a four year school, right?

Wilbur Jones: Yes.

Carroll Jones: All right. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Wilbur Jones: Well, as far as Forest Hills, in Forest Hills all the elementary schools were through the eighth grade when I grew up. In World War II, we built several new schools including Chestnut Street which is now the Snipes School, for example. Lake Forest which is now that Lakeside High School, special school. Sunset Park School. And in Forest Hills, because we had so many new kids coming in during World War II that were sons and daughters of war workers or military officers who rented houses in our neighborhood, we had to add a second story on to Forest Hills School, in 1942 and I well remember that. And one of the, probably one of-- probably the most endearing memories I have of going to a Forest Hills school during the war, all of our activities really centered around the war. It was everything we did. The games we played the movies we watched, the magazines we read, the conversations. Everything had to do with what was going on in the war. And the fact that virtually the entire country was behind the war effort and behind the president and the armed forces. And we were just swept up in it. And in those days, we did not have PlayStation 2 and MP3s and YouTube and all that crap that the children have today that keeps them glued to the television set and sitting on their butts inside watching television and talking to their friends and sending stupid little abbreviated messages back and forth. We got out and kept our feet moving and our brains moving. And this is an advantage my generation has over the current generation. And we, you asked earlier about organized games. We would make up our own games. We'd make our own rules. And one kid would bring a baseball and the other kid would bring a bat and then if you had a glove, fine. We'd all meet on Saturday afternoon and try to play baseball somewhere and that was the way it was in the 1940s. But everything we had to do, everything was around the war, so getting back to Forest Hills School, the memories that I have, the schools would sell war bonds and stamps. We could buy stamps for ten cents, fill up a stamp booklet, turn it in, get a $25 war bond to help finance the war efforts for the government. And our schools would vie with each other. And then if we sold enough war bonds and stamps, usually to our parents, they were the ones that were buying them but we'd get credit for them, we could say that Forest Hills School sold enough bonds and stamps to buy a Jeep. And so the Army would roll the jeep up downtown in front of the post office on Front Street and we'd all get around and pose for a picture that Forest Hills School or Chester Street School just bought this jeep for the Army. And also, I remember, and I've got many, I've kept many of them, and that is I would sit in class and draw pictures. I would sketch-- I remember sitting in the second floor Forest Hills School.

Carroll Jones: This is in lieu of listening to the teacher?

Wilbur Jones: Well, I might have listened to the teacher and maybe she knew what I was doing, but I would look at the window at those pine trees which are still there and the new windows had gone back. The old windows had been put back in the school because it's being renovated now, and I would sit there and draw pictures of Japanese airplanes in flames being shot down by American fighter planes, and German submarines being sunk by destroyers, and an island base of the Marines out in the Pacific, you know, with palm trees and such. And I've got tons of all that stuff. I've got almost all my boyhood wartime memorabilia.

Carroll Jones: Didn't UNCW and the library have an exhibit downstairs in the front on your toys?

Wilbur Jones: Randall Library did, in 1999 and it's time we did it again. I'm probably going to exhibit that collection at Cameron Art Museum. I'm lecturing there in September. And maybe on July 6th when we rededicate and reopen the Hannah Block Historical Center.

Carroll Jones: Good. We'll come to that because that's a story in itself after awhile. So all of you were really swept up in World War II and it was not unusual. People kind of helped you and the adults understood and everybody was involved.

Wilbur Jones: Well, our parents knew where we were because you'd tell your-- come home from school, get the homework done and then in the daylight hours, and especially during the summer, we would put together our uniforms and our equipment. We would collect pieces of uniforms, soldiers that-- we had a soldier that lived in our house for about a year-and-a-half, or two soldiers.

Carroll Jones: Can you speak on that subject briefly because we'll come back to it later, how there happened to be a soldier living in your house, and there were other homes too.

Wilbur Jones: Well, all over Wilmington, during the war, the biggest problem we had was housing. Because we went from 43,000 in New Hanover County to at least 100,000. To the best of my knowledge, about 100,000. Some reports were much more than that, but it was impossible to keep track of because we had so many transients. People coming to work at the shipyard and other defense industries and worked for the railroad and such. But anyway, the housing was a big problem and the government, between the federal government and the local government, built a lot of housing projects which are still in use today. Nafford Village, Lake Forest, Hill Crest, for the Negro soldiers and defense workers. There on Dawson Street. So housing was a problem, and many of us turned our private homes into some sort of lodging for the officers in particular or for shipyard workers downtown. And it was one way that the families could painlessly help the war effort. And many families chose to do very little for the war effort except maybe write a check for bonds or rent a spare bedroom to a soldier. So we did for about two years, the first two years of the war. And anyway, the soldiers, we got to know them. They were stationed at Camp Davis or at Bluethenthal Field, the army airbase, now ILM, or down at Fort Fisher for the advanced training base. They would end up at Camp LeJeune. A lot of Marines, of course, were up there. And they'd bring us pieces of equipment and insignia and the uniforms and that sort of thing. So we'd put together a potpourri of whatever fit, you know, in our bicycle and we'd already made arrangements. We were going to meet over in the area to be later known as Beaumont, the Wayne Drive area. And we'd meet over there and we'd build trenches and foxholes and put up gunning placements and we'd make toy guns and we would pretend. I remember the first campaign we got involved in in 1942. I was only eight years old, was Guadalcanal, the Marines on Guadalcanal in 1942, and we fought the battles with them. And then as I became a writer and wrote my book Gyrene, about the World War II Marines, I interviewed hundreds and hundreds of them and still tell them today that you could not have won the Pacific War without us boys on the home front. Because we fought every battle from Guadalcanal to Tarawa [ph?] to Saipan to Tinian to Kwajalein to Okinawa, Iwo Jima, all of them. We were concentrating mostly on the Pacific War, but we also took time out every once in awhile to kill some German enemy, in the Battle of the Bulge or France, and then back and forth. But that occupied our time. And it's amazing, I look back in my years, I got very, very interested in military history. I went in the Navy for 28 years, 14 active and 14 in the Ready Reserve, and 41 years of service to my country in the Defense Department. And then I became a nationally-known historian and author. And all that came together and I got started then.

Carroll Jones: While you're on that subject, we've heard about what you and some of your friends did. I assume that these were mostly male friends. The parents of these kids, were there many who had left Wilmington to go into the service at that time and leave, or were there relatively few that you knew?

Wilbur Jones: Well, yes to answer all of those questions. First of all, almost all the kids we played with were male, boys. The girls did not play sports in those days so if we had a pick-up baseball game or basketball game, the girls just weren't allowed. They may come and, you know, sit on the sidelines. About the only time we would allow them to play, allow them to play with us, war games, was if they wanted to be a nurse or some Red Cross worker out on the Pacific Islands, and then we'd quickly dispatch them, you know, after they come in and patch up a wounded soldier. And by the way, the guys that got killed were the newcomers or the young guys. You know, some guy would come from across town and want to join us for a Saturday morning, so okay you got to be the Japanese enemy today on Tarawa so, got you, you're out. And now go get us some water. But the parents, interesting because of the nature of Forest Hills and Oleander and being upscale, I would say that every other house in Forest Hills had a father, brother or son in the uniform. No women. Not a lot of women from New Hanover County entered the service but thousands of men did. And within a short radius of my house, five boys did not come home.

Carroll Jones: Now, when you speak of five boys, were these sons, uncles or were they mainly fathers? What I'm getting at is this. Did you have a neighborhood or friends whose fathers were of an age that they wouldn't be drafted but they could volunteer and then join?

Wilbur Jones: Well, you're right. The fathers were not called to service except like Bobby McCumber's father was a Colonel in the National Guard and had been activated. Across the street from me, Louis Hanson [ph?] whose son Dick Hanson, still lives in Wilmington, on Oleander, he was in the Coast Guard Reserve and was activated for awhile. But most all, predominantly the males who went to war from New Hanover County, were sons, and they were all over my neighborhood.

Carroll Jones: All right. That's what I was getting at. So that it wasn't necessarily mothers, single mothers which have evolved into almost one word today, raising families alone.

Wilbur Jones: No, not in our day. There, divorce was not nearly as rampant as it is in this generation today. The families that lived in Forest Hills and Oleander were old established families. They stayed together and the mothers did not work. Some of them volunteered for the war effort in varying degrees, particularly in raising funds and knitting socks and rolling bandages and the more traditional female roles of war efforts.

Carroll Jones: And the fathers stayed here generally?

Wilbur Jones: Yes, not all males went to war, because as you know, some of them had to stay home and run the businesses and the farms and the factories and they were too old for one thing. So my father and a lot of his cohorts or contemporaries had been in World War I and they weren't about to get called on again.

Carroll Jones: Can we fast forward a little bit. Moving from elementary school into high school, which was after the war, what changes did you see or did you think anything of it then? If you look back and see the changes that took place in your lives in Wilmington, how did people changed their lives completely.

Wilbur Jones: Right. I mean that's one of the biggest changes that I noticed when I would come and visit Wilmington over the recent decades and then, of course, when I moved back here ten-and-a-half years ago to live. It had to do with education and the biggest one, of course, was the fact that the schools weren't segregated anymore. Just keep in mind that when I grew up in Wilmington, Wilmington was in the south, and the south was wholly segregated. And as I remember, Wilmington in those days, not only were the schools, of course, completely segregated, but everything was. Colored drinking fountains. Whites only. Colored restrooms. White only restrooms. Restaurants, clubs, everything.

Carroll Jones: Even the movie theaters?

Wilbur Jones: No, the movie theaters were not themselves segregated, but portions of them. For example, Bailey Theatre, and the Façade is still there on Front Street. The Bailey was the premier theater and got most of the good first run movies. The Negroes had to sit in the balcony so the main floor and then a white balcony, and the Negroes sat at the top and that door that they went through to go up there is still there in the Façade. But education, when I grew up there were two high schools in New Hanover County. New Hanover High School which was the white high school and then Williston Industrial High School which was the Negro high school. Williston today, is, of course, the building is Gregory Elementary, a Magnet School. And Williston Elementary was right next to it, but that's been gone for a long time. There's a new Williston Middle School there now.

Carroll Jones: Excuse me. I can't help but hear you saying Negro rather than black.

Wilbur Jones: Yes, I'm using a contemporary term like boy was used for white black. It was a term given to any male who was not your grandfather. And when our men went off to war, they were boys. And the same thing applies to girls. A girl was a female and included everybody up to your grandmother. And the most widely used contemporary name for today's African Americans was Negro. They were also called black.

Carroll Jones: I just wanted to establish that for the area that might listen to this, watch it and be from Iowa or New Mexico or somewhere.

Wilbur Jones: Getting back to changes and education. But first, let me carry the term Negro just one step further. In New Hanover County during World War II there were about 14 USO buildings, United Service Organizations. Recreation centers for the service personnel. Thirteen of them were white and there was one for Negroes and it was called the Negro USO. It was at 9th and Nixon Street where the Community Boys and Girls Club is now. And the Negro clubs, and this is very interesting because when I was interviewed on local television here a couple months ago during Black History month about Wilmington during the war, I reminded the viewers that the Negro clubs, the nightclubs and bars that whites did not go into, I mean segregation went both ways, whites stayed out of black neighborhoods or black clubs. The Negro clubs attracted tremendous headliners in entertainment. Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong, Erskine Hawkins came to Wilmington to play in the Negro clubs. Not at the famous Lumina at Wrightsville Beach, or at the Cape Fear Country Club, but they came to the Negro clubs. However, one of the things that I remember about neighborhoods, where I lived in Forest Hills, Oleander, was all white. I mean a black person only came into that neighborhood if they were a housekeeper or cleaning lady or pulling a wagon selling fresh vegetables and fruits which I fondly remember the couple that came through every week selling fresh vegetables and fruits.

Carroll Jones: Can you give us the name of some of those because we don't call them by that anymore.

Wilbur Jones: The names of who?

Carroll Jones: The vegetables. Butter beans.

Wilbur Jones: Oh yes. This black lady would come through and I can't remember her name right now. It's in one of my books. But they lived over in East Wilmington around Princess Place Drive. And every Saturday they would come to the neighborhood and they would pull a wagon, this man and woman. And she'd have on her hat and he'd have on his coat and tie and what a gentleman he was. And they'd come through the neighborhood announcing their arrival by saying, "Nice fresh butter beans, green peas and okra." And my mother would be waiting for them and she'd buy something from them all the time. And then she would, in the summertime, she would ask them if they would like some water, and so she would give them some ice water. But instead of giving them a glass out of our cabinet, my mother kept two mason jars, they were used for canning. And she would fill them up with ice water for them, and then my mother would, you know, clean them and save them for the next week. But I can remember them sitting on our steps on our side, there at Guilford Avenue, what delightful people they were. But that's just one of the wartime memories. But Wilmington was really segregated. The Negros had their own observances and commemorations of patriotism. They had their own war bond drives. They did not volunteer at the Information and Filter [ph?] Center in the basement of the post office for example, with the whites. And I'm often asked about the contributions that Negros made to the war effort. And they were substantial, because they were representing about 20 percent of the workers at the shipyard, the North Carolina Ship Building Company which built merchant ships for the Navy and the Merchant Marines. And they were assigned the dirty work, but they were very important to the war effort and they took care of some of the infrastructure in town. They were probably very, very important and not given enough credit. They had, I think there were six Negro physicians in town, like Dr. Eaton and Dr. Upperman who attended to at Community Hospital over around 8th and Aynor Street, and I have written extensively about their contributions and the Negro life on the home front. Am I too...

Carroll Jones: We'll get to that at another time. Because that is important to discuss but it's a whole segment of its own. Can we go back to your high school? What was it like, how would you, having raised several kids who went through high school and a granddaughter who more recently went through high school and college, what changes, what was your life like and all your friends? And what did you study?

Wilbur Jones: Not as much as I should. Not as often as I should have. Elementary schools went through the eighth grade. I finished Forest Hills in 1947. I only went seven grades because I had gone to Mrs. Hennon's [ph?] pre-school. It was called kindergarten in those days when I was four and five years old, so when I turned six, some genius in the county school board, I guess, decided that I could enter the second grade because I'd gone to kindergarten two years. So, I only went to public school eleven years. And I graduated from high school in 1951 when I was 16. The significance of that is that I was the youngest person in my high school class. I was the baby of the class, and believe it or not, I still am. The baby of my high school class. I'm still the youngest. I am 73 and most all of my classmates are late 74 into 75, believe it or not. So I entered the second grade. But when I graduated from high school, the school system changed the order of schools and added what we call today a middle school, it was then called a junior high school. So after the class of '51 graduated, elementary schools only went up through the fifth grade. And the sixth, seventh and eighth grades were part of the junior high school system. So when my class graduated from New Hanover, we were the only white school in the county and we had the largest high school class in North Carolina. The largest one. New Hanover County was the largest.

Carroll Jones: But it was a county high school?

Wilbur Jones: Yes, and my class was the largest graduating class in the state. So, because we had four grades. All the others had gone on to, some of the junior high schools went through the ninth grade, like seven, eight, nine. And I can't remember all the details, it's not important. But anyway there was that transition period and we have had our 55th reunion in the year 2006 and some of my classmates look pretty old these days, still alive.

Carroll Jones: So when they weren't looking so old and going to school, what kind of activities did you have?

Wilbur Jones: In the high school? Well, we chased girls. We chased girls but we didn't do anything bad. There was no dope, there was no marijuana. There was very few of the kids drank. There was no sex.

Carroll Jones: Was there a dress code?

Wilbur Jones: There was not a dress code. There was not a mandated dress code, but kids dressed well. They dressed respectfully. They respected themselves and each other. They would no more show up in flip flops and cut off jeans and tank tops like some kids might try to go to school today, or with their pants down to their butthole. You just did not do things like that. You respected yourself and respected each other.

Carroll Jones: And what kind of discipline?

Wilbur Jones: Well, the discipline in those days was probably-- it was not nearly as severe as they have today. I mean there were no Columbine shootings and there were no bomb threats or any of that sort of stuff. My generation had it pretty easy in the fact that we came into life in the middle of the Great Depression and grew up during World War II, and then after the war, we were all, most all of my friends regardless of what part of town we grew up in, were fortunate enough to have wonderful, caring, compassionate parents who didn't want to be our best friend. They wanted to discipline us and get us ready for the real world. And sorry, junior, but you can't have everything you want because that's tough. That's the way life is. I want to get you ready for what's going to happen when you graduate. And many kids in my class, when we graduated, the Korean War was about half over, almost half over, the war in Korea. And many of my classmates were drafted and went into the Army, served in Korea. I went on to Carolina because I got a deferment, I got a student deferment going to Carolina, and I kept my grades up. I had almost an A average the whole time I was there. And I was able to stay out of the draft. So the service, military service was commonplace in those days. You expected to go. We'd just come off World War II where your father, your uncle, your brother or your cousin all went into service. It was the thing that young people did. That does not exist today. Unfortunately it exists among certain few who chose to serve their country in this way and thank God we have them. But when I graduated from Carolina, I went into the Navy into Officer Candidate School, not meaning to be jumping ahead, but that was my obligation, to serve my country. And I'm glad I did, it was the smartest decision I ever made was to join the Navy.

Carroll Jones: Well, let's go ahead and jump ahead to Carolina.

Wilbur Jones: Can I talk about high school a little more, chasing the girls?

Carroll Jones: Well let me ask you this. Your life so far that we've heard here, you didn't really talk about the girls except you made them be nurses and tend to the wounded, et cetera. Once you got to high school, I'm sure that changed. I'm sure there was some value in these girls.

Wilbur Jones: Well we did. We didn't pay any attention to girls in elementary school and in the war because we were boys. We were doing boy things. And there was no Title 9 in those days, thank God. In other words, if the school had a boy's basketball team, they didn't have to have a girl's basketball team. We had one in Forest Hills and in New Hanover High School but it wasn't required by the government. But in high school, we started looking at girls and I can remember some of the girlfriends I had, but the one that I went with when I was a senior, she was a freshman. But I was 16 when I was a senior and she was 14, going on 15, and she was a freshman. And so anyway.

Carroll Jones: Well, what kind of activities, social activities did you kids have in those days here in this part of North Carolina in high school?

Wilbur Jones: Probably only two or three kids that I can remember had their own cars.

Carroll Jones: Excuse me. Were the city limits still at 17th Street?

Wilbur Jones: No, good point. In 1946, after a referendum in '45, the city limits were expanded. Today we call it annexation. But it was an extension of the city limits to include these major areas that viewers would remember. Winter Park, Oleander, Forest Hills and Sunset Park. So the size of the city geographically expanded it by double. And so anyway the kids, no one really had cars and families in those days only had one car, and I would, my father always bought Pontiacs. And I remember getting my driver's license at 16, in the summer between my junior and senior year, and I would have to almost like put in a chip to request the car for a certain weekend so I could take a girl out on a date. In those days, we used to double date a lot.

Carroll Jones: And what would these dates consist of?

Wilbur Jones: Well, we'd go to the movies. In those days, you double-dated a lot so you - if I'm driving, I'd have to go pick up one of my buddies and then we'd go pick up his date, and then we'd go, you'd go call on the girl. She doesn't meet you somewhere like they do today so casually. You go and call on her so that when her father opens the door, he sees what you look like when you're coming to call on his daughter. Whether it's the first date or whether you've been dating this girl for a long time. So we'd go to the movies or we'd go to football games. I did not play sports after my freshman year in high school because I had a growth problem in my legs that prohibited me from playing. I did play two varsity sports at Carolina because I had overcome it. So we'd take dates to football and basketball games or we'd go to see a performance at the high school auditorium, a play or something like that. Or often the kids would just get together at somebody's house and, you know, whether we played spin the bottle and kissy kissy games or chasing each other around at night, and that was sort of fun because we often were quarantined because of polio and the whole neighborhood would be quarantined. And I remember you couldn't go off your street for an entire summer except under certain circumstances because of infantile paralysis polio. But it was, when you're double-dating, it's pretty hard to make out. And so if the couple in the backseat starts smooching, the couple in the front seat, let's say they've been going together for a couple months and you're dating a girl for the first time, that's pretty awkward. When they're smooching in the backseat and you're sitting up there, what are you talking about? Politics, religion, outsourcing of jobs? The Atlantic Coast Conference which hadn't been formed then? I mean, what do you talk about? So it's sort of awkward.

Carroll Jones: Did the beach play a big part in the teenager's life at that time? And how did kids get to the beach, was there a trolley?

Wilbur Jones: No, the trolley stopped running in 1941, '40 or '41. So you'd catch the bus down to the beach or some buddy would come by and pick you up or you'd thumb a ride. We thumbed a ride. We went by air. Hey are you going my way? Seriously, we'd thumb a ride downtown. We'd thumb a ride to the beach. And the beach played an important part. You didn't date a girl and go to the beach, but where my crowd used to hang out was at Station One at the end of Stone Street. You cross over Banks Channel, over the bridge, there was Newell's [ph?] right there on your right, and a couple little restaurants and buildings on your left. And Stone Street straight ahead. So we'd just go down and camp out and we'd change clothes down there and hung out at Stone Street. That's where we hung out during the war too. We'd all gather on a weekend or something because most of us had jobs. I worked after school my junior and senior year, and during the summers. I started working when I was 12-years old I had my first job. Mowing lawns, pulling grass, raking leaves in the neighborhood, and so I've been working for 62 years.

Carroll Jones: That's a good place to stop for this tape. Take a break, change the tape and we'll continue.

Wilbur Jones: All right.

(tape change)

Carroll Jones: This is Carroll Jones. It is still Tuesday, April 23rd. We're on Tape 2 with Wilbur Jones, and we'll pick up just about where we left off, which was being a teenager, double dating, the beach, and can we just wrap up that period with, what was Wrightsville Beach like at that time? Now we've got condominiums and that sort of thing and mostly inhabited by people by the week.

Wilbur Jones: Right.

Carroll Jones: And at that time-- and also, any hurricanes, as you used to call them, the people here.

Wilbur Jones: Well, we had one hurricane during World War II in 1944, and it messed up Carolina Beach a little bit, but Wrightsville Beach was not that badly hit. But that was the only one of significance during my boyhood. Of course, everybody knows Hurricane Hazel in 1954. I was, at the time, was a senior at Carolina when that hit. But Wrightsville Beach was for single-family homes. It was not-- there were no condominiums. There weren't any particular hotels. Lumina was the big attraction, Lumina down at the southern end. And there were no restaurants particularly. There was a snack shop right next to Newell's, and if you went down there for the day, you packed a picnic box or something to take, and you took your own food and drink. We would try to-- as boys, we would try to connect with someone who was a member of the yacht club, Carolina Yacht Club because we could go in there to use the bathroom. There were no portable-- there were no Johns, no toilets on Wrightsville Beach then, and there aren't many now, and so that town has not progressed much at all in that regard. So, that hasn't been a real big change. But we would never ever in a million years have foreseen the growth, these huge homes, these lovely homes, and the condominiums, the Station One Condominium, of course, Blockade Runner Hotel were not there when I was growing up. And everything was single family, and the homes were often not heated. During World War II, many of the homes were rented to military officers, but there was no heat because the families who owned them lived there only during the summer months, the season when they didn't need heat. And there was no air conditioning, either. They just opened up the windows and the doors and let the breeze blow through. And Harbor Island was hardly-- there weren't a lot of houses in Harbor Island or restaurants or radixes [ph?] or anything. And, of course, Shell Island, where the shell island resort and so many of those lovely homes, including the Holiday Inn Sunspree were not there because Shell Island was an island, and it was not connected. The end of north Wrightsville Beach was right there where the water tower is today. And if you wanted to get to Shell Island, you had to swim across or take a boat across, and nobody lived there, like Masonboro Island is south of _____.

Carroll Jones: How about Johnny Mercer's pier?

Wilbur Jones: Now, Johnny Mercer's pier was there and also the Crystal Pier, eventually was down there where Lumina is today at the Oceanic Restaurant. So we had two, two fishing piers. And Johnny Mercer's-- the out-of-town folks went to Johnny Mercer's. The in-town folks, the civilized people, the non-rednecks, went to Station One and hung out at the yacht club and/or the seaside club but mostly the yacht club.

Carroll Jones: Was there social life in the evening? Dances?

Wilbur Jones: Oh, the beach, we would, in high school, we would perhaps have an event at the yacht club. Some member kid would throw a 16th birthday, that sort of thing. But most of our social life was not connected-- the evening-- was not connected to the beach. And it was just a lot of hanging out.

Carroll Jones: Right. Okay. So you went off to Chapel Hill. That must have been a complete change for you and a lot of other young people. And at that time, were women admitted anywhere but the nursing school? Tell me about that.

Wilbur Jones: Well, to begin with, I had not planned to go to Carolina. I had expected to go to Duke because I grew up a Duke fan and, particularly after the war, would listen to-- I was a big sports nut for much of my life and would listen to the basketball games from NC State, from North Carolina, from Duke, and I became a Duke fan and went to see a Duke football game in 1945. They played the Naval Academy. I never will forget that. And I wanted to go to Duke. And then I got interested in writing at a very early age, and I was editor of the Forest Hills Echo, our student newspaper that came out, like, once every six months or every three months, but I was editor my last year at Forest Hills. And then when I went to New Hanover, I became active in the student newspaper, the Wildcat, and I was editor of the Wildcat my senior year. And I loved to write, and I wanted to be a sports writer. So, in my junior year in high school, I shifted gears to go to Carolina to study journalism because I wanted to be a sports writer. I fancied myself as being the Grantland Rice of my generation. He was the most prominent sports writer of the time. So when I went to Carolina, at first I was glad to get away from home, because my mother was still sort of domineering my life. I literally had to cut the cord when I was commissioned an officer. And my father was much more willing to give me a longer leash than my mother was. But when I want to Carolina, the biggest change I had to make was, like every student, was not adjusting to campus life but adjusting to what classroom life was like. And so, my grades my first quarter, couple of quarters--we're on the quarter system, we enter the semester system, like, next year--were not that good, but I was able to bring them up. And I missed by one A of making Phi Beta Kappa. I really rebounded quite well. But the biggest problem I had as a freshman was my dormitory roommates. I was stuck with two kids who came from the same high school, the same town. They knew each other. It was two against one. And they eventually flunked out because they were butt-holes. They were absolute jerks. I'm glad they did. I hope they never got a college education because they tried to ruin my first three or four, five months. They were always pulling pranks and turning the music up loud; you couldn't study. They weren't partying as much as they were just nuisances. So I got a change of dormitory and lived on campus for my first three and a half years. And I became a big man on campus. I was never in a fraternity. I got rushed by Kappa Alpha, and one of the biggest disappointments of my life, I was blackballed from joining Kappa Alpha fraternity. And the genius that blackballed me--and this story I will never forget--I played varsity Lacrosse for four years and varsity soccer for two. I lettered in both and I was president of lettermen, or the monogram club my senior year, which helped to make me a real BMOC. But a lot of my teammates--and some of them have done exceptionally well in life--like Hugh McCall, who founded NCNB and sold out to Bank of America here a few years ago; he's probably been one of the most successful bankers in the South--were classmates. And they were all members of Kappa Alpha. But some non-athlete in Kappa Alpha thought I didn't shake his hand firmly enough, and that was enough to blackball me. So I went through the rush process, and I had wanted to join because I went through, I waited until I was a junior. So I was sort of a king of the dormitory life and was never a frat boy and never hung out with them. I didn't drink in college and no one knew what marijuana was in that generation. And so I behaved myself and I became very, very active in campus affairs. I wrote; I was on the staff of the Daily Tarheel with Charles Kuralt and remember him from those days. We used to write. And so I became president of the monogram club and a starter on both soccer and Lacrosse teams and enjoyed that quite a bit. And I became a jock and enjoyed wearing my monogram sweater around. Because in high school I was unable to play varsity sports because I had serious growth problem with both of my knees, and I unfortunately did not play for Coach Leon Brogdon in high school or Coach Jeff Davis after my freshman year.

Carroll Jones: So, did you see these years as changing your life and how you _____, which is normal for any college student.

Wilbur Jones: Oh, man. Yeah, but there were two things. One is that I kept my foot in both camps. I thoroughly enjoyed college life, and particularly my last two years, as probably most kids would do. But I kept a foot in Wilmington, too, because I dated-- I'd dated girls on campus. And I'll tell you about the girl situation there.

Carroll Jones: Briefly.

Wilbur Jones: Yep. But I dated mostly girls back in Wilmington. And I was in college dating high school girls in Wilmington. Well, there wasn't that much difference in age, but it meant it gave me something to come home to every weekend. And the way I'd get to Wilmington from Chapel Hill was either thumbing a ride--wear your monogram sweater, have a weekend bag with a big sticker on it, with NC, and you put that down and you have a sign up that says Wilmington and thumbing rides. You know, believe it or not, down 421 and 117 to get to Wilmington and the same thing going back. My father used to take me out and drop me at Paul's Place over there in Pender County at Rocky Point, thumbing a ride back to Chapel Hill. Or we'd get rides with just a handful of kids who had cars. But anyway, the girl situation at Carolina, when I was a senior, Carolina had only 7,000 students. It's four times, five times that number now. And the only women who could go there were either townies, Chapel Hill girls, or School of Nursing. And for the first two years. A woman could transfer into Carolina in her junior year if she came from another school. And often the setup school or the preliminary school was W.C., Women's College, you know, the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, which is now UNC Greensboro where my granddaughter went to school, got her degree. So, if you were a freshman or sophomore at Carolina and were male, there were very few dating opportunities on campus, very, very few, because the nurses were a bunch of bags, and the townies were running with the frat boys. So we would have to go, if we wanted-- that's why I dated back in Wilmington. And occasionally I would date-- I can remember going over to Greensboro and dating a girl over at W.C. and thumbing a ride home from Greensboro back to Chapel Hill on a Saturday night. We'd go over to Meredith College or St. Mary's or Peace over in Raleigh and date, or even go over to Duke and hold our nose and date a girl over there.

Carroll Jones: Did you ever-- you got over quickly the fact that you didn't go to Duke; is that it?

Wilbur Jones: Oh, very quickly, because as I tell some of my friends, once you lace up the cleats and play against them in a varsity sport, there's no love lost. This is one reason why I hate them today, hate their athletics today. I hate Duke basketball and Duke Lacrosse and Duke soccer because I played against them.

Carroll Jones: Okay. So, Carolina was pretty high on your list of places that, again, helped shape your life.

Wilbur Jones: Well, they did shape my life because I was able to accomplish some things, and I knew that I wanted to serve my country, and I looked into Army Officer Candidate School and decided I didn't want it. And the Navy accepted me, and even though I did not have 20/20 vision--it was 20/20 correctable--and I can remember driving to Raleigh three times a week over a period of about three or four months to an ophthalmologist there to take eye exercises and things so that I could pass the reading chart for 20/20. I was serious about joining. So I was ready to leave home, and I was ready to become a naval officer. And it was the turning point in my life when I entered the Navy.

Carroll Jones: So you went to OCS in Newport, Rhode Island?

Wilbur Jones: Yes.

Carroll Jones: And that, again, must have been another cultural change.

Wilbur Jones: Well, it was a cultural change if you can imagine. I hadn't done a lot of traveling as a kid, except my Lacrosse and soccer teams did travel a lot and played in New England and such, Maryland. But I hadn't really traveled an awful lot. So, my parents, and on January the 26th, 1956, put me on the train at Wilmington, and I took the train to Providence, Rhode Island. And that was quite an experience. I'd ridden the train before, but you don't ride the train anywhere anymore, but that was quite an experience. Today, I'd fly to Providence from ILM, you know, through three or four stops. But I rode the train. And I can remember driving through Philadelphia in the middle of the night, looking, stayed awake just so I could see the baseball stadium because it was right next to the tracks. But I got to Providence and a bus met us, collected a number of us from Newport and drove us down. And I can remember checking in as an officer candidate, a seaman apprentice. And I went through five months of officer candidate school, and it was an extremely life-changing experience.

Carroll Jones: Is this where they separated the boys from the men?

Wilbur Jones: Yeah, the boys from the men, and it was an officer training boot camp, and plus we had huge academic studies to prepare ourselves in navigation, engineering, Navy administration and regulations, naval history, just all of these things, and gunnery. And then we were given a choice of where we wanted our duty station to be, and I asked for a ship in the Pacific. And I got a ship in the Pacific. But in the meantime, the Navy kept me there in Newport after I got my Commission. I was commissioned on June the 1st of 1956, and never will forget commissioning day. My parents did not come up, and I was wearing my brand new khaki uniform, which the Navy officers don't wear anymore, with a blouse jacket. And I can remember walking away from the commissioning ceremony and going back over to the barracks to get my stuff because I had to move from the OCS barracks over to the bachelor officers' quarters on the other side of the naval station in Newport. So I had so collect all that stuff and haul it over. And I'm walking across the campus, and this young sailor passes me, and it's obvious I'm a brand new, newly-commissioned, minted ensign. And he walked by and he sort of smirked. He did not salute. I stopped that boy right in his tracks, gave him a piece of my mind, told him don't ever pass a commissioned officer again without saluting. And I never will forget that story. I've told it to our friend, Ensign Kimberly Williamson and her family here a couple of years ago when I commissioned her down in Pensacola. We were supposed to give out a dollar to the first enlisted person who saluted us, but I was so mad at that fellow that I didn't; I forgot all about the dollar. But I took my stuff over to the bachelor officers' quarters. I was supposed to start communications officer school two days later, right there in Newport, and I went to the pay phone down the hall--there was one pay phone for the whole floor--and called home and talked to my father and told him what I was going to tell my mother. My mother came to the phone, and I said, "Mother, I am now a commissioned officer in the Navy; I'm not your little boy anymore, and I'm cutting the umbilical cord. And I love you dearly and I'll be home when I can, but I'm not a little boy anymore. I'm not your little baby." She sensed it. She took it very well, my father later told me, and she was ready. But I was still always going to be her Junior-boy, regardless.

Carroll Jones: So after you finished communications school, you were sent to the West Coast?

Wilbur Jones: I was sent to Japan. My ship, I was assigned to an ammunitions ship.

Carroll Jones: That's real far west.

Wilbur Jones: Very far. I was assigned to an ammunitions ship, which coincidentally had been built in Wilmington during World War II. It was a World War II ammunitions ship, and it was exactly what I wanted because the ship was home ported north of San Francisco, up in Contracosta County at a place called Port Chicago; it was a big ammunition depot. So it was close to Oakland and Berkeley and San Francisco. And the ship happened to be in Japan. So my trip to get to the ship was an odyssey. It took me at least two plus weeks to get out there. I flew out of Wilmington, Piedmont, to Dallas-Ft. Worth, took a bus to San Diego, and then a bus to San Francisco to Moffat Field, flew out of there to Hawaii. It was my first trip to Hawaii. All the while, I'm staying a night or two nights waiting for military hops, they were called, military flight. And from there to Midway Island to _____ to Okinawa and then onto Japan, just hopping, you know, catching a flight. And then sitting and waiting in Yokosuka, Japan, for my ship to come in, because it was out on duty, and so I had a couple of days in Japan. And all this is new to a boy. You know, I'm seeing all these World War II battle fields that I'd heard about.

Carroll Jones: It must have been Never-Neverland to a young south eastern North Carolina kid.

Wilbur Jones: I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I mean, looking back on it, it's amazing how I was able to make that transition from being Junior-boy to realizing what my responsibility's going to be now that I was a commissioned officer, because it's a whole lot different than being an enlisted man or a civilian. And not knowing what to expect and going to my first ship, and I think every officer has that trepidation about going to your first command, your first assignment, especially if you're sea duty, because I'd never been to sea. The only time I'd ever been on a boat was out in Banks Channel at Wrightsville Beach. But I remember my ship came and they communicated with me and told me to meet them at fleet landing because they had just come in that morning. And I never will forget the first boat that came ashore came to get the mail and pick up the security codes for the coded messages, the encrypted message system. And they were expecting me, so I had a couple of bags with me in my khaki uniform with my blouse, and I looked about as green--my gold was still shining. And I went aboard the ship and was shown my state room. And I remember the officer that was my roommate. I remember what he looked like. His name was Rock Stoner. He was from Bemidgey, Minnesota. I can remember what that boy looked like to the day I die. And he showed me around. And then I was to meet my-- I was a division officer for the operations department, division of about 30 men-- and I was supposed to meet them the next morning at quarters, but that evening, I wanted to go ashore again, so I jumped into my civilian clothes and my coat and tie. And by the way, in those days, officers never left the ship in anything other than coat and tie. Everywhere I went in Japan, Far East, Europe, everywhere, we wore a coat and tie. We looked like gentlemen. And so I showed up at the ward room on there in civilian clothes and they were all looking around. And no one had told me I was supposed to ask the executive officer for permission to leave the ship, because this was still the old Navy. This was wooden ships and iron men Navy. It was not the first name Navy we see today. And I was not told I was supposed to ask the executive officer who is the number two in command and runs the ward room. And so I'm sitting there getting ready to leave. And I remember they were passing plates around of mashed potatoes and beans or something like that, and the plate going around, and you're supposed to take it, take your stuff and pass it to the next guy. So the guy sitting over here-- I was the junior ensign, so I'm sitting at the end of the table. They did tell me, "Sit there." And I can remember the guy. So I started for it like that, and he was holding it. He just dropped it right there on my plate. That's one way to learn ward room protocol. So, you know, I committed a couple of sins-- three cardinal since right there, ward room protocol and everything. So, anyway, they told me that one of the lieutenants got me, he said, "Well, you're supposed to ask permission from the executive. He understands now, but for now..." so I was shaking in my boots. Oh, God, I got off to the wrong start. So the next day, I go for morning quarters in my division, my operations division, about 30 men. It was out on deck. They were waiting. I mean, I had a chief petty officer. He came and got me and introduced me. He said, "This is Ensign Jones, he's the new division officer, the new communications officer." I looked around. I had 30 men, I counted about eight black guys. I thought, "holy cow" because there were no blacks at Carolina when I was at Carolina. I wasn't used to this. And I don't know if this story's true or not. I've told it so many times to myself, it may have been true, and then maybe it wasn't. But I think I said "My name is Ensign Wilbur Jones and I'm from Brooklyn, New York."

Carroll Jones: With your accent?

Wilbur Jones: No, with a Brooklyn accent. I think I said that. And I don't know how I got out of it, but I thought, holy cow. But anyway, and all the time I was in the Navy on active duty, I never saw any racial problems, never had any racial problems. In fact, in my life, I have saved the life of one other person. I saved a black sailor from drowning, and saved his life. And I never will forget that kid. But he needed my help, and I didn't give a damn.

Carroll Jones: Now, at this time, you must have still had a good old southeastern North Carolina accent.

Wilbur Jones: Oh, I did. And I got along all right with them. I remember one incident. I hadn't been on board too long, and I was getting some insubordination from a sailor, from a seaman who happened to be black and was in my unit, my division. And I was so mad at him, I took his white hat off, his little cup white hat. We were at sea. I took it off his head and flipped it over the side like you would a frisbee. Somebody saw me do that and told the exec., and the exec. said, "Don't ever do that again." And you know, in those days, the discipline-- you had to be disciplined if you were an officer. You expected it of your men, and the commanded officer expected it of his officers. And so I learned quickly, and I kept my nose clean. And it's amazing to me looking back with all these little incidents like that, that I ended up making four stripes. I made captain, 21 years after I was commissioned I made captain, which was right on schedule.

Carroll Jones: You traveled a great deal during those years, probably constantly, didn't you in?

Wilbur Jones: In the Navy?

Carroll Jones: Uh-huh.

Wilbur Jones: Yes.

Carroll Jones: And did you begin to evaluate in your own mind at that time that you were not going to return to live in Wilmington, as a young man at least?

Wilbur Jones: Yeah, pretty much so. In the first few years I was on active duty, the first two or three years I was on active duty, I wasn't sure, I didn't know if I was just in for the short haul or the long haul. And it was a job. I was fulfilling my obligation to my country. I was maturing. I was traveling a lot, and I loved to travel all over the Far East, the Pacific, and then eventually to the Mediterranean, to that area. But then I decided that I wanted to stay in, and so consequently I had no design ongoing back to Wilmington. My mother wanted me to come back to Wilmington, and my father did to a degree. And I suppose that if I had made the decision to go back, to get out of the Navy and go back to Wilmington, I could probably have inherited the family business, which would have been Carolina Savings and Loan, like a lot of my friends inherited their family's business, so they never had to go out and look for a job.

Carroll Jones: You could have lived in the same house.

Wilbur Jones: And I could have lived in the same house, but no, I decided to stay in the Navy. And I went from, I had a reserve Commission. I was accepted into the regular Navy, augmented, which was quite an accomplishment for a young officer. And then I met the girl of my dreams over in Naples, Italy, and got married. So I knew I had to have a job with a future.

Carroll Jones: I guess so. How did you take to being at sea? Surely you were on ships with people who had been in the Navy a good long time. They had families, they were changing duty stations constantly. Was this part of the allure? I mean, was it sort of a romantic type thing? You could see the world?

Wilbur Jones: Yeah, that was a lot of truth and still is, join the Navy and see the world. And when I entered the Navy in '56, it was only 11 years after World War II and almost all of the more senior officers from, say, lieutenants, lieutenant commander, commander, captains, were all World War II veterans that decided to stay in the Navy as a career. And a lot of the World War II enlisted men had become warrant officers or had been commissioned as Mustangs, into officer ranks. So that when I went on my first ship, my first couple of ships, I was fortunate, as were other young officers, to be guided by them, because they had been through combat, they'd been to the war. A number of them had been through the Korea War as well. So they were seasoned veterans, and they were able to help us out, help me out. They recognized something in me that I had leadership ability. And that's not something that you're blessed with, you have to develop. And I developed leadership, and I was helped out an awful lot. I had gotten a great deal of guidance and encouragement from those officers. As far as traveling is concerned, I saw places that I haven't seen since, many of them in the Far East from Hong Kong to the Philippines to the Pacific islands and Japan, and Korea, that I haven't seen since.

Carroll Jones: You've visited some of the Pacific Islands; have you not?

Wilbur Jones: Well, I've been to a number of them leading battlefield tours and such.

Carroll Jones: So did you go directly from the Far East out to the Mediterranean?

Wilbur Jones: I made two deployments out of Port Chicago in the ammunition ship. Then I was transferred to the Mediterranean. I asked for a ship in the Mediterranean, and I got a ship in Naples, Italy, some port in Naples. And so in 1958, I was transferred to this ship. I picked it up in Sardinia, and we went all over the Mediterranean and were involved in the 1958 Lebanon Crisis and that sort of thing. And so, yeah, I enjoyed the travel.

Carroll Jones: What were some of the ports you visited?

Wilbur Jones: In the Med?

Carroll Jones: Uh-huh.

Wilbur Jones: Well, I was on that, it was a World War II LST, I was on for about eight months, and then I was transferred. I wanted to get off of there because I couldn't stand the commanding officer. He was a Captain Queeg type, or Mr. Roberts commanding officer type, James Cagney, Captain Queeg, Humphrey Bogart type. He was an idiot. And his name was Smokey Gordon, and he was probably the most incompetent naval officer I've ever met. I wanted off of there because I was thinking about the Navy as a career, and that wasn't going to do me any good serving under that jerk. So, I was transferred to a fleet oiler that was hump boarded in Naples, Italy, on the staff of the commander of the task force. And between those two ships, we visited Spain and Majorca, the southern coast of France, the coast of Italy, Istanbul, Beirut, Athens, all over.

Carroll Jones: So you had a wide...

Wilbur Jones: Oh, yeah. I had the-- sure, the Mediterranean for two years. And it was just a wonderful experience.

Carroll Jones: From there?

Wilbur Jones: Well, I met this young lady in Naples who captured my heart after a while and found out she could not get rid of me. Her father was the Commodore, and I was his aide and flag lieutenant and also his communications officer. He was the bull captain in the Sixth Fleet. The Sixth Fleet was the Mediterranean fleet.

Carroll Jones: Explain to those who may not know, what is bull?

Wilbur Jones: The bull captain means he was the senior captain, and he eventually was promoted to rear admiral and retired. But I became very attached to his daughter, who had come over to Naples just for a while to visit with her parents, help her mother get settled in Naples. And so consequently-- he had come from the Pentagon. And so, we developed a relationship, and heck, we decided to get married. We got married in Naples, Italy, on August 11, 1959, in Christchurch. And so that was another smart decision. That was the second smartest decision I ever made in my life. And so, then the Navy transferred me out to San Diego to a ship there, and I made-- it was an amphibious attack ship, and I made two deployments to the Far East from there.

Carroll Jones: So how many years, then, from the time you graduated from OCS until you finally had shore duty, were you at sea? Which is what the Navy, I guess, thinks.

Wilbur Jones: Almost seven years.

Carroll Jones: Seven years?

Wilbur Jones: Yeah, at sea duty, and on three ships. And actually, well, it turns out it was four ships. Then I got shore duty in Coronado, California, at the amphibious base for two years and then decided to get out of the Navy and go into politics.

Carroll Jones: All right. Let's address that. What started to change your mind? What was it that interested you about politics? I know at that time, it was quite a changing year, the candidates were different, etc., but what was it?

Wilbur Jones: Well, in 1964, when I had decided to get out of the Navy after almost nine years, and to go into the ready reserve, I was looking for a new career, obviously. And we were living in Coronado, California, and it was 1964 was the year that Barry Goldwater, Senator Goldwater from Arizona got the Republican nomination for president and ran against president Lyndon Johnson. And Barry Goldwater wrote a book called Conscience of a Conservative, which I read, and I was taken to him and began to-- I'd always been interested in politics, but I read his book and listened to him and became very involved in his campaign over in San Diego even while I was on active duty. And my admiral and my bosses knew that I was involved. It was probably a violation of the Hatch Act at the time. If I ever broke the law in my life, that was one time. But they sort of turned their head because they knew I'd made the decision to get out, and after all, they were all for Barry Goldwater because they didn't like Lyndon Johnson, and one of the big topics, of course, was national defense. And Barry Goldwater was hawk, and most military guys were also hawks. So, he was my guiding light and my spiritual leader and still is the root and cause of my involvement and my subsequent career in politics, in staff politics, and why I, to this day, maintain such a fervent interest in what's going on in politics. So, Barry Goldwater inspired me.

Carroll Jones: Did you ever hear him speak during this time?

Wilbur Jones: I heard him speak at a rally in San Diego. I remember watching his plane fly in and heard him speak, shook his hand. And I used to work at the headquarters over there stuffing envelopes and licking stamps and doing the dirty work that has to be done in the headquarters.

Carroll Jones: Am I mistaken, or was this a time when Ronald Reagan started to speak for him?

Wilbur Jones: Ronald Regan began to speak. He was working for general electric at the time, and he had a speech that became famous.

Carroll Jones: "The" speech.

Wilbur Jones: Yeah, "the" speech that he spoke on behalf of Goldwater around the country. Ronald Regan came to Coronado to Coronado High School, and we went to see him make that speech at Coronado High School in '64. Then when I got out of the Navy, I went to work for Union Bank in Los Angeles. And I didn't know anything about banking, but they put me in, you know, in an apprentice kind of program, and I immediately began work for the Republican Party, which had been devastated because Johnson just clobbered-- President Johnson clobbered Barry Goldwater in the election. So the Republican Party in L.A. County was in shambles. And I volunteered, and I was all of a sudden pre-seat [ph?] chairman, right in the middle of the heart of L.A., where we lived. It was a very heavily Democratic district, but I did a pretty good job. I even ran for office for the congressional district for the board and the Republican committee. And I didn't get it, but from there, I had an opportunity to go to work for the Republican Party in Los Angeles County. They were called Republican Associates. It was an affiliate of the party-- raise money, education and organized campaigns and voter registration and such. So I went to work for the Republican Associates of Los Angeles County. I quit my job, and it wasn't paying much. I had two and a half kids at the time, and I don't know how we did it because in those days, political staff people weren't paid much at all. We worked downtown, Sixth and Spring Street in the Coastal Federal Savings Building. And I made a lot of good contacts. I worked with all of the hierarchy in California politics. I met Ronald Regan when he was running for governor. I helped work on his campaign for governor in 1966. And I worked with a lot of the Richard Nixon people, who were the H. R. Haldeman and Erlichman and folks who would later become involved in the Watergate or they would [inaudible].

Carroll Jones: Would you say you were kind of punching tickets at this point?

Wilbur Jones: Oh, yes, I was punching tickets because all of a sudden I just had a fervent desire to go as far as I could in staff politics. I set a goal I wanted to be chairman of the Republican National Committee. And so, I associated-- I poured everything into it, and I associated with the Haldemans and Erlichmans.

Carroll Jones: William French Smith, was he a big one?

Wilbur Jones: William French Smith. And for a little kid from North Carolina, I was hobnobbing with a lot of the biggies and being invited to the right clubs for lunch and so on. And it was a big deal to me because I was in my, you know, late 20s, early 30s. Yeah, early 30s. And an opportunity came along. Regan was elected governor in '66. So when he took over in '67, was sworn in, he chose Bob Finch as his lieutenant governor--or Bob Finch was elected lieutenant governor--and Finch had been head of the Board of Republican Associates of Los Angeles. And I was working for Republican Associates, so Bob Finch knew me well, because I'd worked with him. He was a big attorney. So here I was. I'd met the governor, but I knew the lieutenant governor, you know, reasonably well. So, when president Nixon was elected in '68, Richard Nixon, and sworn in in '69, he asked Bob Finch, the lieutenant governor, to come to Washington to be his secretary of health and human services, I think, HEW it was at the time. And so, that left the lieutenant governor job vacant. Well, before that, I had gone to work, I had met Congressman Ed Reinke, the Republican Congressman from Burbank, who had half of the San Fernando Valley and the Antelope Valley all the way up into the gold mines near Death Valley and the old gold mines. It was just fantastic. And I was Reinke's field representative. In other words, I ran his field office, all his field operations, his district office. He only had one, and that was in Van Nuys, and I was very fortunate because of the connections I'd made, I mean, really high rollers in Los Angeles County. Reinke hired me, and so I became an employee of the House of Representatives. And I worked for Ed, and then when Finch went to Washington with President Nixon, that left the lieutenant governor job open. Governor Regan asked Ed Reinke, the Congressman, to be the lieutenant governor. He did. It wasn't a special election. He was appointed and approved by the legislature. So, Ed went to Sacramento, and I stayed on running his field operation until...

Carroll Jones: This was the 27th district?

Wilbur Jones: The 27th district of Los Angeles, which included Burbank, North Hollywood, Canoga Park, Northridge, part of Van Nuys, up into the Antelope Valley, and so on, to Ridgecrest and to Evans Air Force Base, all up through there. It was a fascinating district, and it was probably the best district, to be a guy in my shoes, because I traveled all over. You know, one afternoon on the way home, I'm sitting in a bar, which also was the post office of some little, not even a village, a crossroads out in the Mohave Desert, and this miner comes in with his burro and sits down at the bar, and I buy him a beer, and we sit there-- you know, with the beard and everything. It was like he was from a Hollywood set. And then that evening, I had some social event with the Glitterati, I think at Bob Hope's house in-- I forget...

Carroll Jones: You had both ends of the spectrum.

Wilbur Jones: Yeah, both ends of the spectrum. And it was just-- and I got to meet a lot of Hollywood people. And it was just sort of more than I could handle, I guess. But that was in '66, '67, '68. And we had some horrible rough times in the United States in those times. But anyway, so Reinke goes to Sacramento, and that leaves an opening. And all of a sudden, I'm approached by a guy named Barry Goldwater, Jr., who was the son of Barry Goldwater, who got me into all this stuff in the first place, who was my guru.

Carroll Jones: Mentor?

Wilbur Jones: Well, he wasn't a mentor until later, but he certainly was my guiding light and my spirit. And so, Barry Goldwater, Jr., asked me to be his constant companion because I knew the district. He was wanting to run for the congressional seat. So we ran a campaign against four or five others, and one of the...

Carroll Jones: So this was a special election?

Wilbur Jones: Yep. Special election. And one of the people we ran against was Ronald Regan's daughter. Maureen Regan was heavily involved with one of the candidates. And Lynn-- all of a sudden I can't remember-- another big Regan guy. Anyway we beat...

Carroll Jones: Nofsinger?

Wilbur Jones: Lynn Nofsinger, and we beat them in the primary. And it was a Republican district, so we knew we were going to win. And I spent several months with Barry Goldwater. I introduced him to everybody all over the district. I kept him out of trouble. I woke him up in the morning, put him to bed that night. And so, he won, I mean, just clobbered the Democrat opponent, and he was a big headliner, because he was Senator Barry Goldwater's son. And here you had Senator Goldwater in the Senate, and you had his son in the U.S. Congress. So, Barry had asked me in the beginning, "What do you want out of this?" And it certainly wasn't money. And I said, "I want you to take me to Washington with you and I want to be," because I'd wanted to get to Washington. And I said, "I want to be your administrative assistant," which was the number one executive, or the chief-of-staff. And he said okay. So, he won, came to Washington, took me. I drove across country in 72 hours with my stuff, got an apartment in Arlington and went to work for the U.S. House of Representatives on Capitol Hill and organized his office and worked for him until his father got me a job.

Carroll Jones: I was going to ask you.

Wilbur Jones: At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Carroll Jones: Yeah, I was going to ask you when you first got to know the senator, during the campaign for his son?

Wilbur Jones: During the campaign, he made a couple of appearances for us, and he was very appreciative of what I had done for him, for his son, because without my help, Barry Goldwater, Jr., would not have been elected to Congress.

Carroll Jones: He was kind of a handful, wasn't he?

Wilbur Jones: He was a handful, but he was a nice guy, and turns out he was a mediocre congressman. But in any event, I became closely associated with Senator Goldwater and his staff in the Senate, and they helped to get me a job uptown, at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. And I took a political job with the General Services Administration downtown DC, and that was that. And that was all in 1969, 1970.

Carroll Jones: Well, that wasn't quite that. That was that for that period?

Wilbur Jones: Yeah, sort of in a nut shell of how. And I still had visions of being chairman of the Republican National Committee. And I'd expanded it by that time to include secretary of the Navy.

Carroll Jones: When, then, did you become so involved in that administration and the reelection that you were sent elsewhere? Like north to New Hampshire.

Wilbur Jones: Oh, okay.

Carroll Jones: In the Nixon administration.

Wilbur Jones: In those years, by that time we had three children, and my wife was not gainfully employed outside the home for compensation, and so I was working with the General Services Administration and had all the right contacts in the Nixon Administration, the political side, and was offered several opportunities to go run campaigns for various Congressmen, one of whom was Henry Hyde of Illinois, suburban Chicago. And Henry Hyde, I turned it down. Henry Hyde had probably one of the most distinguished careers of any Congress men in recent history. He lasted for almost 30 years in Congress. And I turned down that opportunity, and there were a couple more. And then in 1972, the Committee for the Reelection of the President, CREEP, came to me and asked me to go to New Hampshire and run Nixon's campaign in New Hampshire. But before that, right before that, we had the Watergate scandal in 1972. And before that, when I was at the General Services Administration, I was part of a cadre of hand-selected young political operatives who were invited by the White House by the Haldeman and Erlichman crowd to do advance work. Whenever the president leaves the White House, whether he's going across town or around the world, an advance team has to go out and make all the preparations. And then when the president arrives, those, the leading advance men takes the president through all of his activities.

Carroll Jones: Can we stop at this point, because this is interesting and I'm sure to continue from here on is very noteworthy.

Wilbur Jones: Well, I think maybe it would be good to get into the Watergate situation.

Carroll Jones: We only have a couple of minutes.

Wilbur Jones: No, I mean tomorrow.

Carroll Jones: This is what we'd like to do. We'll get into that type politics, into the Watergate situation and your ultimate activities in Washington for yet another president, because these are all very historical data.

Wilbur Jones: I'm probably the only person in town whose name is in the Watergate Select Committee's Report but had nothing to do with Watergate, probably the only guy in town who ever worked as an assistant to the president. So maybe I can add a few things to the record.

Carroll Jones: Well, at that time, I think Haldeman and certainly Dick Cheney, and a lot of other people, factored in your life. So we can go on.

Wilbur Jones: We'll pick them up later.

Carroll Jones: We'll pick them up later. I want to thank you for this segment, and we'll look forward to Tape 3.

Wilbur Jones: Thank you. My pleasure.

(tape change)

Carroll Jones: Today is now Thursday and it's April the 24th. We're on tape three with Wilbur Jones continuing an interview on his life and times, and I believe we left off with getting involved in the Nixon reelection campaign. Wilbur, let's go from there. Where was it exactly? You had to be recruited. Backtrack a bit.

Wilbur Jones: In the late 60s, early 70s, I was recruited while I was working as a political appointee in the general services administration. I was an assistant to one of the commissioners and because I had a political position, a Schedule C position, the White House recruited people like me who were stationed all over Washington and were political types of the Republican party to do advance work for key administration officials. And advance work as I described yesterday in terms of working for the president, every time and official goes to an event, somebody has to go plan it. And depending upon the degree of the event, and the seriousness of it, and the political aspects of it, and many of the events were strictly non-political. They were business related of course to whatever the official, like the secretary of housing and urban development would go on an official business trip. But somebody would have to go and make the preparations, plans and then walk that official through. So I was recruited along with probably about 20, 25 other guys that were considered rising young stars in the Republican Party there in Washington to do advance work. And I of course received permission from the head of my agency, the general services administration, and I was stationed both in Washington and over in Arlington, Virginia at the time. I received a request to advance in Florida a trip by attorney general John Mitchell's wife. And she was a trip herself.

Carroll Jones: Was this Martha of the midnight calls?

Wilbur Jones: This is Martha Mitchell and it was one thing to advance the attorney general, and I want to say that we had gone to school at the White House to learn how to do all of this. So even though I'd been in politics a few years, I was sort of new to the advancing game. But Martha Mitchell had been sort of spinning out of control and she'd been seen indulging in perhaps one too many martini, and conversations that were not necessary to get out. And her husband, attorney general John Mitchell who later became one of the key figures of the Watergate scandal, and that's what I'm leading up to because this is really juicy stuff, he was one of Richard Nixon's closest advisors, and had helped him in his campaign, in fact had been one of the campaign managers of his 1968 campaign. So this was early 1970 and the request came to me, and I was supposed to go to Florida and keep her out of trouble.

Carroll Jones: A glorified babysitter.

Wilbur Jones: Yeah, a Martha sitter and the ludicrous aspect of this is that I'm paid by the federal government of course, and it's a fine line between violation of the Hatch Act to do this kind of thing anyway, and that was another matter which was addressed after the Watergate scandal. But I saw this as a non opportunity to get involved. I was told to go down there and keep her under control, if it meant keeping her out by the poolside and rubbing suntan lotion on her to keep her quiet and keep her sober. And I thought this was sort of going above and beyond the call of duty, so I brought it to the attention to the head of the general services administration, and he called the White House and fortunately I got backed off to do that. Now, the interesting quirk of fate is that Martha Mitchell went on down to Florida for a vacation. A White House recruited advance person went down there with her to do the things that I refused to do. That person ended up being James Baldwin who was, I'm pretty sure that was James Baldwin. I'd have to reach back into my memory bank but I'm pretty sure it was James Baldwin who went down with her, and he was one of the burglars involved in the break-in at Watergate. Now, you draw your own conclusions. I'm a highly moral and ethical person now and I was then, and I'm not saying that by the quirk of fate there go me and Watergate. But if I had gone down there and done that, I might have been one step closer to whatever the Watergate involvement was. And if I recall, Baldwin was the fellow who was the lookout on the hotel. He was at the hotel across the street from Watergate. He was the lookout. So I could have been the lookout, there by the grace of God.

Carroll Jones: And some morals.

Wilbur Jones: Yeah, and some morals. What that did was, there's the Watergate scandal to talk about it and how I was on the periphery of that only in one respect, and also about the fact that I then began working for Nixon's reelection. So they're two different things and I'll do the Watergate first as long as I have that link. Well, let's see in '72 I was now working at the general service administration and I was asked to, the White House recruited me to go to New Hampshire to run Nixon's reelection campaign. Watergate had already happened earlier that year and so I took a leave of absence from government and was paid by the committee for the reelection of the president, called CREEP, famous of course in Watergate history. So I went to work for CREEP an went to New Hampshire in August of 1962, '72. I'd never been into New Hampshire. I knew nothing about it except that they were New Englanders who didn't cotton too well to having foreigners come from Washington D.C. to tell them how to do things. Well, this was in the general election.

Carroll Jones: So this was in Concord, New Hampshire?

Wilbur Jones: Yeah, I went to Concord, New Hampshire.

Carroll Jones: Which was sort of the center of all that is ultra conservative in New England.

Wilbur Jones: Well, parts of New Hampshire were conservative and parts of it then as now were extremely liberal. But New Hampshire had a Republican governor and a Republican legislature, so it was friendly territory for me. I went up there and spent three months, and it was absolutely amazing what I was able to do with the cooperation of these people who don't like others coming in to tell them what to do. I established offices all over the state from Berlin on the Canadian border all the way down to Nashua which is on the Massachusetts border. I traveled the entire state. Our headquarters was in Concord and we only had four electoral votes but it was important because it was important to the Republican Party in the East, and it was my first time ever running a statewide campaign, and so I had to sort of learn as I went along. But that's politics. That's politics and that was sort of the fun of it, but I lived in Concord and they had a car, and they paid my expenses, and they paid me reasonably well to do that, and as it turns out, Nixon received 63% of the vote in New Hampshire, just clobbered George McGovern who was the democrat nominee and it was the highest vote that Nixon got in any state east of the Mississippi, 63%. So I came out of that looking very, very good. And my wife came up on election day and joined me, and then we went up to Canada for a brief vacation. That was a pleasant part of it but I worked with some wonderful people with whom I stayed in touch for a number of years.

Carroll Jones: As an offshoot of this, you were on I'm sure, a list which took you to a lot of interesting place like Rockefeller's Place and a number of others, right?

Wilbur Jones: Well, I'm not there yet. When I worked for Gerald Ford. I was invited, I wasn't on the Nixon staff. I worked for the committee for the reelection of the president but I was invited, yes, I was invited to Rockefeller's estate in New York for a thank you weekend and got to meet Governor Rockefeller who I met later on and worked with when I was on the staff of President Ford because Rockefeller was vice president then. And I got lots of goodies from the White House, receptions with the Nixons, and thank yous, and that sort of thing. And Richard Nixon was really a very amiable guy working with staff, and treated us all very well, but I did not work on the White House staff for him. So after the '72 election, I went back to the general services administration, and then later was offered an opportunity, I went over the Department of Housing and Urban Development in a political job, as an assistant to the secretary of housing and urban development. That was a pretty prestige job for people like me in their early 30s and ended up as one of several assistants to Secretary Jim Lynn who later became head of Office of Management and Budget under Nixon. And I stayed on when Secretary Carla Hills came into the job in the mid 70s as well. So I worked for two of them and they were outstanding Washington bureaucrats and they both were very good to work with, but interesting enough, another Wilmington connection now is that the senior assistant to the secretary was Dick McGraw, and Dick and I had maintained contact over the years, and as the senior of the assistant, he had a larger office and a bigger desk than the rest of us did. But Dick and I have renewed our working relationship and friendship because he, of course, moved to Wilmington some time ago and just recently spent a couple of years in the Pentagon as a deputy assistant secretary of defense under Donald Rumsfeld. And so Dick and I have gotten back on board together, enjoying our working relationship.

Carroll Jones: He mentioned that when we interviewed him.

Wilbur Jones: Oh, really? Well, I think we probably have a high mutual respect for each other and he's done tremendous job for our country. But anyway, I was offered, after the '72 election, I was offered several jobs including the Chief of Staff, I would have been Chief of Staff for the Secretary of Transportation, and that would have been a real plum job. I turned that down to go to HUD and I wasn't quite sure what I was getting into because I didn't know anything about transportation except that I flew an airplane, drove a car. And the fellow who got that job turned out to be one of those who was indicted and went to prison over Watergate, and Bud Erhlig.

Carroll Jones: Bud Krogh, Eagle Krogh.

Wilbur Jones: Eagle Bud Krogh, yeah, he was one of those who was indicated and I talked to him. He said he'd rather have the job. I said, "Okay, Bud, I'll let you take it," and so he ended up going to jail. So another one of those little consequences. Now, where I ended up in Watergate is obviously I didn't have a damn thing to do with Watergate and thought it was an absolute catastrophe, and those days in Washington D.C. in 1972 to 1974 when Nixon left were some of the most God awful days in the history of the republic. An those of us who were hanging onto paid political jobs, we were doing our jobs for our government, went through some very, very traumatic times and Nixon did us no favors. And of course, a lot of the guys that I had gotten to know and had sort of grown up in recent years in politics with, John Ehrlichman, Bob Halderman, I did not know John Deane who was the big whistleblower but he and I had never crossed paths. But a number of them, Chuck Colson, and I had worked with them in one form or another, either in California or in Washington, and of course they all went to jail. They betrayed their country in that respect and they betrayed--

Carroll Jones: How was that for someone in your position and those like you who kept you out of trouble, who did the honorable thing? Was it a long time in accepting the fact that this really was happening because Watergate spread out over a long period of time? And how did you feel personally?

Wilbur Jones: I felt, I was in a precarious position. We became very weakened in government, trying to run the country.

Carroll Jones: But were you yourself hurt? Were you disappointed? Were you angry?

Wilbur Jones: Good gosh, yes. I was upset and angry first of all at the way the opposition, the Democrats, went after Nixon because at first it did seem like a fourth rate burglary. I mean, to quote Bernstein and whatever his name was. But as it evolved, it just meant, you know, bring it to a close, get it over with because in the meantime, Spiro Agnew who had been vice-president, former governor of Maryland, had been indicted on some sort of felony charges resulting from his governorship of Maryland. He had dropped out and the vice president, of course, Gerald Ford became vice president, and it was just an extremely traumatic time. In 1973 and 1974 was just awful years and so we were fortunate to get our paycheck and think about the fact that good God, we weren't involved in it. Now, getting back to the committee for the reelection of the president, as I said yesterday I'm probably the only person in New Howtuwa [ph?] County who worked for the committee for the reelection of the president. Dick McGraw did not, for example. So therefore my name is in the Watergate report, the Watergate Committee report.

Carroll Jones: Were you ever brought up to testify?

Wilbur Jones: No, no, I knew nothing about it. I wasn't in the line of fire. I'm trying to tell you that my name is in the report because I worked for CREEP. The listed one of the appendices of the Watergate Committee Report, our good North Carolina Center, Sam Ervin, and his committee, because they listed all the employees of the committee for reelection of the president. So you could chisel that on the backside of my gravestone and it's my claim for fame, but as those names were called off and these guys went to jail, I mean it just became absolutely disgusting. So when Nixon, of course, resigned in 1974, and Gerald Ford who was appointed as vice president, confirmed by the Senate then became an unelected president of the United States, the first one we'd ever had who had not been elected either president or vice president. So Gerald Ford, I had met Gerald Ford in 1966 when I working for the Republican Party in Los Angeles, and never will forget the time when I met him because he had come to L.A. to speak to our group and to help us raise money and such. He was the chairman, excuse me, he was the minority leader of the House of Representatives, the senior Republican. And I remember going to the Biltmore Hotel, going up to his room to call on him to bring him down and everything, and we were coming down in the elevator, and it was in the morning, and he had just shaved but he had forgotten to remove some shaving cream from the side of his face and in his hear. And I said, "Mr. Ford, I hate to tell you this, but," and he was so appreciative, and I don't know if he ever remembered that, but I do know that every association I had with him when I worked for him for two years was a pleasant one. He was the finest boss I ever had. He was sworn in as president in '74 and then a couple of months later, we noticed in Washington a huge change. You're talking about bringing people together. He was able to do that at a time of crisis in the country and it was before he had pardoned Nixon, but all of us who were political types at my level throughout government got the word that we're doing things different now. This is no longer the Nixon White House, and the Nixon folks, believe it or not, they'd go into a town when the president was coming and they'd bully people. They'd intimidate people. They'd even try to tell the Philadelphia police department how to operate, and that's probably the toughest job in the world is to tell them to do anything. They do whatever they want, and later on when I was working for Ford I got the opportunity to work with the Philadelphia police department on the side and could see all that happening. But they would go into the Nixon people, and remind you again, I never did advance for Nixon. I did all my advancing for Gerald Ford, and so when Ford came on board he said that when you're there, you are representing me. You're representing the American people. I don't want any intimidation. You go in and ask them for their advice, suggestions, and work with them at the local level. And that new way of doing things and atmosphere just didn't take long at all and floated throughout the political level of the Nixon/Ford administration. And so when I was secretary, I mean an assistant to the secretary of housing and urban development, I got back into the White House rotation as advance, and was asked to advance for President Ford at the beginning of 1975. He'd only been in office just several months and my secretary, Carla Hills, who later became the U.S. trade representative, a wonderful woman and as smart as she could be, gave us permission for me to advance. So I was on frequent call both for in-towners and for out of towners and even out of the country, did some foreign trips. The in towners were easy. They would take several days and let's say the president's going to go to the Washington Hilton Hotel to make a speech to some agricultural organization that was having a convention. All of that has to be planned and then when he gets there I have to lead him through it, and it's fairly simple. Make sure that it all goes right and work with the host organization. And these were all non-political because I'm still working for the federal government. I became their military guy. Every time there was a military event for the two years plus that worked for him as the advance man, I was the military guy because I had maintained my commission in the naval reserve, in ready reserve, and I had commanded two units in the Washington D.C. area. And so when I worked for Ford I was a commander in the reserve. So it was natural for me if he was going to Omaha, Nebraska to visit the strategic air command base there, I would be the advance man because I could speak the military language and carry that rank, and it all worked out fine. And I had just a number of just wonderful events I did for him, both in '75 and '76.

Carroll Jones: He did a lot of traveling in that short period of time.

Wilbur Jones: He did a lot of travel.

Carroll Jones: And you did too then.

Wilbur Jones: I was gone a great deal in '75 and '76. My first out of town advance for him was in February of '75, I went to the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Golf Tournament down in Hollywood, Florida, in the Orlando area, and got to meet Jackie Gleason. And then in addition to the military events, I think probably the most memorable military or advance idea non-political was in '75 when I went to Jacksonville, Florida to advance President Ford's meeting with Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat. And President Sadat came to Jacksonville to meet with Ford and Henry Kissinger, because he was Secretary of State, and administration officials. And I was responsible for the arrival at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station and the president was going to fly in on Air Force One and then we were going, we set up a boatorcade, not a motorcade but flotilla of boats to cross the St. John's River over to the other side to Jacksonville where they were going to be having their meeting. And so Air Force One came and the president got off, and his entourage, we put them on the boats and then the boats returned, and then shortly after that, the Egyptian airplane flew in with Anwar Sadat and his entourage, which was much larger than President Ford's, and he got off, and of course we had state department people and so on meeting him. And then I was responsible, I had worked with the Egyptian advance team and the secret service and such. So we put them on boats, and I tell you, when the doors to that Air Egypt or whatever it's called opened up and that coterie of folks came down, it was some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life, these Egyptian woman that were traveling with Anwar Sadat.

Carroll Jones: His harem?

Wilbur Jones: His harem. I got to meet several of them later at receptions and such, but then I rode over to the other side, to Jacksonville with the Egyptians and they were wonderful to work with, and then the first meeting that afternoon, and this is again, I'll never forget, is that every time the president travels, an officer, a military officer goes with him and carries the football. And the football is the nuclear weapons codes in case we get attacked. This of course was in the middle of the Cold War and we were at war with Russia, the Soviet Union. And so the president needs this code machine if we have to retaliate or strike the enemy. And it's, most people who follow politics know that someone carries the football, and so this was an air force captain who was responsible for that particular trip. And it was on the St. John's River. They were meeting out here in someone's private building that was built out onto the river in a pier and so forth, and we were waiting for them to break for lunch, and the captain, the person who carries the football is never supposed to let go of it. In fact, it's usually handcuffed to his wrist, and he put it down on the edge of this pier. I mean it was the edge. It was about that far. He put it down to go over here to do something and I saw the thing, and it was a little windy, and I saw this code machine and I went running over to pick it up so that it didn't fall over into the water which was, you know, that far. And somebody would have had to dive in after it, and I picked it up, and I grabbed it, and then people saw what I was doing and of course it made that air force captain look like a fool, which he was. He was an idiot. We didn't like him anyway and so I gave it to him and he was so shocked, he really chewed me out for picking it up, touching it, and I said some very unflattering things to him having to do with his rear end and a few other things. But we had to do that for each other, and then that night at the reception before dinner, there were a few perks that people like me, you know, at my staff level, were able to enjoy with President Ford. But we were never the center of attention. If the president was around, we stayed away. If the president's standing there talking to Anwar Sadat, we don't walk up there and get in the conversation. I mean we're supposed to stay in our place because we're wired, we have radios, earpieces, we're wired into the secret service, White House Communications Agency with whom we work, and so we have to know where the president is, his movements and so forth. But I did get to meet President Sadat and some of his entourage, and he was one of the most impressive people I've ever met in my life. And it wasn't too long after that, a couple of years after that, it was five years later, he was assassinated. And it was a tragedy because he was, for that day and age, a wonderful person.

Carroll Jones: That's interesting. Can you describe, just for the sake of interest and some time, some of the more interesting advance trips, people, places? I know there were a lot of them but some of those that made a particular--

Wilbur Jones: Well, some of them had historic significance like the one with President Sadat. For example, I advanced President Ford's trip to Germany, to West Germany, to Bonn in 1975 when he was going over for the famous Helsinki Accords. It was another effort to both coalesce the Western Alliance and détente with the Soviet Union. And he stopped in Germany for a couple of days, and so I was in Germany for about almost three weeks.

Carroll Jones: Excuse me, let me interrupt you so that others would get a feel for us. You would go over, not by yourself, maybe with a couple of people--

Wilbur Jones: Well, more than a couple of people.

Carroll Jones: Well, describe, basically, why you would go early.

Wilbur Jones: All right, I understand what you want. We had an advance team that would go early. The advance team consisted of the senior White House representative who was in charge and on the German trip I was not the senior person. I was considered White House staff, White House communications agency or military people would have to set up the communications and the secret service. And they didn't report to us but everything they had to had to be checked out with the White House Staff. And we worked very closely together, and I never had any problem working with the secret service. Every time I wanted a political emphasis on an even with a backdrop, or who we let into an event or something, the secret service was cooperative and they would help to make it work.

Carroll Jones: Now, this as in conjunction with the German government people too?

Wilbur Jones: Yeah, I'm getting to that. All right, the other person who would come along would be the White House Press Corps because that's a different matter. I did not deal directly with the White House Press Corp. So we'd go into Germany and work with the German government. There'd be a representative of the U.S. State Department there and so we would work with the German government on all of the events, and the president was there for about two and a half days, and I was responsible for several events, but the one that was the most eventful and memorable was a cruise down the Rheine River from Bonn to Linz and then back. Evening, it was a state dinner that was hosted by the German president and the German Chancellor, and I got to meet them. Helmut Schmidt was the wonderful Chancellor of West Germany, and so it was my job to do the advance for that particular trip. It was a state dinner on a riverboat called the Drachenfelz, and so I had to go to Cologne to get on the ship and set it up, and that sort of thing. So when the president gets to an event he's led around by one personal assistant so that if we need to talk to the president, we talk to the personal assistant who was Terry O'Donnell, and we had code names for each other, and code names for the president. And so we would talk to Terry and Terry would then tell the president what he's supposed to do, but as part of my advance work I was responsible for really telling him what he was supposed to do. And working with the host, whether it was the Governor of Iowa or the local Republican Party in Philadelphia, or the German government in Bonne, we would negotiate on who was going to be on the platform, where the arrival ceremony would be, how long the president was supposed to speak, who seated next to him, who he should recognize, and suggestions for the speech, and all those things, and we would communicate them back to the White House. And this was in the early days of facsimile machines, and that and telephone was all we had, non secure in communicating with the White House wherever we were in the world. So that was very historic, but probably the most memorable event I had with him was on July the 4th of 1976, our nation's bicentennial, 200 years old, and my job was to advance his trip to New York. On July the 4th, the president started out in Washington then went to Valley Forge and Philadelphia, and then flew by helicopter to a naval vessel, a navy ship, the U.S.S. Nashville that was anchored in the Hudson River in New York. And my job was that particular event. He was supposed to arrive on the Nashville by helicopter and review the international naval review. Warships from all friendly western nations were there along with sailors from all the nations. They came on that ship to pay tribute to the president and so he watched the international naval review steam past this ship, and then of course it was also the day of the tall ships, Operation Sail. The tall ships from all over the world came there.

Carroll Jones: Tall ships had sails?

Wilbur Jones: Oh, they had sails, you know, the tallest masts and so we--

Carroll Jones: It must have been a crowded harbor.

Wilbur Jones: Oh, I've never seen anything like it, particularly as we left by helicopter to fly to Newark airport and we flew around the New York Harbor later after the event.

Carroll Jones: These ships from all over the world came to pay their respects because it was our country's bicentennial?

Wilbur Jones: Yeah, it was our birthday.

Carroll Jones: Did they at any time shoot off firecrackers, guns, aside from salutes and just parading?

Wilbur Jones: We did have some gun salutes, right, but most of the review was just, as ships passing in review, as soldiers would pass a reviewing stand on a drill field, and I do remember the young sailor from Denmark who was on the Danish tall ship. We picked him out and he helped President Ford cut the birthday cake. That was America's birthday cake we cut right there on the Nashville and we got that young sailor. I never will forget the way he looked in the pictures.

Carroll Jones: He must have been shocked.

Wilbur Jones: Yeah, it was quite an event but there was even one more memorable thing that came out of this event, something I will never forget and my children probably won't either. It was raining that day and we'd gone to New York several days in advance and set it up, and by the way because the ship we used was the U.S.S. Nashville, it was an amphibious attack ship. And to do my advance work I had to go down to Puerto Rico because the ship was down there. So the White House flew me, secret service, communications, and a press guy down for a pre-advance, you know, weeks in advance, and the ship was available for us to go on down in Puerto Rico. And it was funny because we flew down there on Air Force Two, the plane, either Air Force One or Two is designated one when the president's on it. Yeah, it's the same airplane, two different tail numbers, and so they flew us down in Air Force Two. We were the only passengers going down there and talk about a luxury ride, but we had gone down there. President Ford was in Puerto Rico for an international conference, and so I did the pre-advance there. Anyway, it was raining on July the 4th and President Ford flew in on Marine One, the helicopter, landed on this amphibious ship, and I met him, and things were a little less formal that day. It wasn't like you're meeting head of state, you know, in Helsinki or somewhere. And so he reviewed the crew that was out there on the deck. It was raining slightly and part of my job as advance man is to make sure that if anybody gets wet it's me and not the president. And so I had this big umbrella, and as the president's going around I'm holding all my stuff. We didn't have BlackBerries, or Palm Pilots, or anything in those days. We carried everything in a notebook and under our arms, and I'm getting soaking wet out there, and so is the crew, and I'm carrying the umbrella over the president. He stays dry and it's a classic White House photograph of me doing that. It's one I hope you put that on my gravestone too. That was so funny. So anyway I was soaked for the rest of the day, so the rain stopped a little bit after and then we were able to do the birthday cake and so on, and then the captain of the ship, I asked him if he'd like to go inside and have a cup of coffee, and meet the crew inside because not everybody could go outside. And all of a sudden he was gone, and I turned to Terry O'Donnell, who is his right hand man, should have been with him, "Terry, where the hell is the president?" I turned to the secret service. We were all looking around. We had no idea where he went.

Carroll Jones: You lost the president.

Wilbur Jones: We had no idea where he went and this was highly unusual because Gerald Ford was such a wonderful guy to work with. He took direction pretty well. If we would tell him to do something, he would do it because he knew, he trusted us and knew there was a reason. So anyway we couldn't find him and I thought, oh my God, it's my job to know where he is, and I thought, oh my, I've lost the president, where is he. So as it turned out, he was gone for, oh, about 20 minutes, 25 minutes and we're all standing out there on deck. It started to rain again and he was out, all of a sudden White House communications called and talked, said, "I've got him and we're leaving the captain's cabin." The captain had taken him up to his cabin after meeting the crew on the mess deck, a little tour of the ship. They had a quick cup of coffee in the cabin. The president comes down and I could see him coming down, and I've got my umbrella still, and I go walking fast over to him, and I say, "Mr. President, where were you? We had no idea where you were," and he looked over at me and laughed, and he said, "That's all right, Wilbur." He said, "I was with the captain up in the cabin and everything is fine," and I said, "Thank you, Mr. President," and I put the umbrella back, and I thought that day I was going to lose my job. But it turned out to be, we all had some good laughs. Then we all left the ship on the two marine helicopters, and when I flew helicopter with him, I always flew Marine Two. And I flew probably Air Force One with him I'd say five, six, seven times when I worked for him, coming home from events, because my job was over. They let the locals, you know, clean up. But we did take that helicopter ride around the harbor and boats everywhere. We flew over the statue of liberty, over to New York Airport, got into Air Force One. It was freezing cold and I'm soaking wet, and I was starting to really get stuffed up. My sinuses were driving me crazy. I sat next to a Democrat congressman who was a good friend of Gerald Ford from New Jersey who happened to have whatever Comtrex was in those days and gave me some, and I probably would have died without it. I sat there shivering next to him all the way--

Carroll Jones: And this was July the Fourth?

Wilbur Jones: This was July the Fourth, and then we flew into National Airport in Washington. We didn't fly into Andrews Air Force Base and we then helicoptered over to the White House, another helicopter ride, and I went immediately into my office, our advance office in the executive office building, and there was my wife and my three children waiting for me. And I changed clothes. She had brought me some clothes, fresh clothes, and we just enjoyed the rest of the evening because it was a heck of a fireworks show and we had a picnic out on the White House south lawn, and the president and Mrs. Ford came out and waved to us. It became a real-- he did this for the staff and it was a wonderful setting to the evening, and to show you how hectic life was, and then we can move onto something else, I got home that night, it was very late and I was absolutely exhausted, and I was called when I got home and told to be prepared to go to Bayonne, New Jersey the next day to go on board her majesty's yacht, The Britannia to do an advance because Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were coming to Washington as part of this July the Fourth Bicentennial celebration, and that I was to do the advance for their state dinner on the yacht Britannia which would eventually be up in Newport, Rhode Island. So I had to leave the next day. My wife helped me pack or she always kept a bag packed. So I didn't have time to get but just a few hours sleep, get out to Andrews Air Force Base. They flew me up to New Jersey, went over to Bayonne with the secret service and a communications guy, and went on board the royal yacht Britannia and made the preliminary preparations. So the queen came to Washington several days later, state dinner at the White House, and then a couple of days later the president flew up to Rhode Island and had the return visit when the yacht was up there in Newport. And that was interesting because we were not included in the party, the dinner party, the staff wasn't. We usually weren't. If we had to eat we, you know, sat way over to the side somewhere. We didn't interfere but what I will remember about that night is, of course, I often wore a tuxedo to many events I went with him. And that night they were coming off the yacht and my job was to get everybody into the motorcade so the president could leave and go back to his hotel. This is late at night, and I'm standing there trying to get Secretary of State Henry Kissinger into the second car so that the motorcade would leave, and the secret service is pinging on me to get all the passengers in the other cars so the motorcade can leave. And the president and Mrs. Ford had already gotten into their limousine and Kissinger's sitting there talking to some British official and I asked him politely twice, "Mr. Secretary, the president is ready to go. Would you please get into the car so you all can depart?" And he ignored me the first time. The second time he gave me a wiseass answer, and so I said, "Okay." I told the secret service, go, and he could see it was leaving, and he turned to me and made some sarcastic remark at me. And I said, there it is. He went and got in the car. Kissinger was not a fun guy to work with. I didn't have that much to do with him.

Carroll Jones: When did you first meet Dick Cheney? Was it with the Ford administration?

Wilbur Jones: Yeah, Dick Cheney replaced-- when I first became an advance man in the White House in '75 and then later an assistant to the president, Donald Rumsfeld was Chief of Staff, and Rumsfeld then moved over to the Pentagon. He went over to the Pentagon to become Secretary of Defense and his place was taken by his deputy who was Dick Cheney, and Dick was 34. He was our age and Dick was a very nice guy but low key, and I had had a few drinks at the bars because once the event's all over and particularly if we have an overnighter where we put the president to bed in a hotel, boy, all of us, I don't care how exhausted we are, we all collapse in the hotel bar and just have a couple of drinks, be it midnight before going to bed. And Dick was not really the hearty guy at the bar, but got to know him and turned out to be he was a nice guy to work with. He's chief of staff, you had the president, and the chief of staff, and then the head of the advance office, and I reported to him. So I was three levels down from the president as all advance men were. But one advance in Portland, Oregon during the campaign of '76, I set up a meeting for him to meet with all of the state union officials because Oregon's a big union state and big Democrat state now. And we had arranged for the meeting and so on, and I'd gotten okays. They were all going to be there. It was going to be a private meeting. The press was not invited. The press knew about it but they were not invited and Ford was trying to win Oregon, and I set it up for, say, like two o'clock in the afternoon. I'm sitting in there. It's two, it's 2:05, it's 2:10, it's 2:15 and the president is asking me, he said, "What's happening? Where are these union officials?" There were five or six of them supposed to be there and my answer was, "Mr. President, I have no idea where they are." It turns out they stood him up and he asked me, he turned to me and he said, "Well, what will I do? What do I tell the press?" I said, "I'll talk to the press. You don't say anything and you don't say anything about them standing you up." And so I went out there and there were some press out there, and I talked to our press person who got the word to the press that there must have been some misunderstanding about the schedule or something. But if I recall, we did not whine and say that they stood him up, but they did, and we lost Oregon anyway. But there was another great advance I did during the campaign. I loved the campaign events because you're trying to raise the crowd, and President Ford, it was right after the famous debate that he had with Jimmy Carter in which he unfortunately alleged that Poland was free and was not under Soviet domination. And I was down in Mobile, Alabama. He was driving from New Orleans to Mobile along the Gulf Coast and having rallies in various cities. And mine was the final rally of the day and it was to get him on the plane and then out of there. So I raised a crowd of about 27,000 people at the airport, 27,000 people, and I had Governor George Wallace. I talked to him, got him there. He was supporting Ford and supporting Carter, and I got Coach Bear Bryant of Alabama football fame--

Carroll Jones: Probably more famous than anybody in the state.

Wilbur Jones: I talked to both Governor Wallace and both Bear Bryant and extended the president's invitation to them. When we go into a state or a city we were the president's representative and we had a lot of authority to speak, and it took extreme tact, particularly coming after the years when the Nixon people had gone in there and dictated, and we'd go in. And anyway we had Bear Bryant who gave me some wonderful mementos and Governor Wallace. I'd been standing out on the tarmac all afternoon and Governor Wallace was in his car waiting for the president, and here's the podium over here. And the president was delayed because he was having great crowds all along Alabama and Mississippi, and I was absolutely exhausted. My legs, I had been standing on that tarmac for probably ten hours. He says, "Wilbur, come on over here and sit down in the car with me and just cool off for a while." He was an invalid, of course, at the time. He was in a wheelchair because he was almost assassinated. And I sat there for about ten minutes and had a delightful conversation with Governor George Wallace, one of the most famous politicians in America's South. And he was exceptional. He sent some very nice mementos but I got a chance to get the blood circulating again.

Carroll Jones: So it was, I'm sure, a letdown when Gerry Ford lost.

Wilbur Jones: Gerald Ford was the best boss I ever had. The one that I was fondest off was, it turned out to be my father-in-law, the late Rear Admiral Burton Robinson who was probably the finest human being I ever worked for, but it was a different situation because he was my mentor and he was also my father-in-law. But Gerald Ford was probably the best boss I ever had. He was so accommodating and he wanted to make sure that the staff was comfortable. Yeah, when he lost it was terrible because I couldn't stand Jimmy Carter and I dislike him immensely now, even more so than I did then. He is a disgrace to this country as far as I'm concerned.

Carroll Jones: You had an opportunity later on, some years later to work with him, with Gerry Ford again for an event, right? Kind of a reprise of the situation and both of you were happy to see one another?

Wilbur Jones: We got to see each other again, a few years later in retirement, and of course we were living in Alexandria, Virginia, and it was a big fundraiser event for Senator John Warner who was married to Elizabeth Taylor then, and our local Republican party, and I invited President Ford to come and speak. He came from California so it was a good reunion. What I remember the most about that is in the back room we were all, Ford and Senator Warner, and some other people, we were all sitting around before Ford went on to speak. But I got a chance to meet Elizabeth Taylor and talk to her for a while. So that was one of the few little perks that happened in politics.

Carroll Jones: You would probably say that you were one of the few, explain the term Potomac Fever, because that's come up before in certain interviews and we've never really explained what it meant. And people looking at this five years, ten years, or even now, their age group will have no idea what that means. And then we'll break for another tape.

Wilbur Jones: I guess every occupation or field of discipline has its career climbers and it's those who aspire to achieve all sorts of things, whether you want to own a business or to be the world's greatest heart surgeon, or to advance in national politics. And Washington is the mecca of national politics. And many young people come to Washington, as I did, and with Potomac Fever. They want to get there right away, fast. Many of them will do almost anything, they will compromise certain ethics or morals in order to get to where they want to get because they're looking for recognition, fame, and power, and let's face it, Washington is the center of that for the entire world. It will be as long as we remain free, and Potomac Fever usually consumes most of those who are smitten by it. Thank God it never smit me. I was able to be much more rational. For one thing, I had three children and a wife, and I had to be more careful than probably some single guy coming into town, and lots of them were that way. But there was a lot of socializing, and schmoozing, and ladder climbing and the sort of thing that happens in many disciplines. But it's more vicious in Washington, but I learned to get along with it. I worked there 28 years in the Washington area, and it never really affected me, because I became a little league umpire, coach, and worked in the community, and tried to earn a living. That was the main thing but I was devastated when he lost because we came back from a 33 point deficit in the election year to within two points.

Carroll Jones: That's close.

Wilbur Jones: Very close and what defeated us was his partner, Nixon. There was no doubt about it.

Carroll Jones: Let's break here and then we can pick up on your life after that, which became a little bit interesting. We can probably save one more tape for your return to Wilmington which evolved into a whole new life, reprising the life you left here many years before.

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