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Community remembers ties to ‘pillar’ of Roswell

Al Jones sits in a glider while a friend and fellow Civil Air Patrol member stands by. (Submitted Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Paying tribute to the Honorable Judge Alvin F. Jones

If you see a bow tie around Roswell this year, it could be that someone is paying tribute to Alvin Francis Jones.

Judge Alvin Francis Jones

Jones was often seen wearing one of his hundreds of bow ties, so some in Roswell intend to use a bow tie graphic on announcements this year or to wear one as neckwear or jewelry to honor a man that devoted 49 years of his life to improving New Mexico.

Jones was a judge for 19 years and a lawyer for about 49. He also was a devoted family man and well-known community leader involved in almost every youth- and legal-oriented activity in the city.

He passed away May 28 at the age of 74 after being struck by a minivan on West Second Street while bicycling and training for the Milk Man Triathlon.

“His legacy was huge and his legacy was important,” said Carrie-Leigh Cloutier of Chaves County CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates).

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Jones was instrumental in starting the Chaves County branch of the national nonprofit that provides legal advocacy, support services and custody supervision on behalf of youth.

“Now we have 22 programs that serve almost 3,000 children a year; and unfortunately child abuse isn’t going away, so the need is huge. But Judge Jones made it possible because he believed in us, and when things got rough he was there, always there, pushing us on, (providing) words of wisdom, encouragement.”

As close to his heart as CASA was, it was only one of the many organizations to which he devoted time and effort. A short list includes Character Counts!, the Civil Air Patrol, the Roswell Literacy Council, St. Peter Catholic Church, the New Mexico Children’s Law Institute, the National Guard Youth Challenge Academy, Reach 2000, the Roswell City Council Behavioral Health Commission and the State Community Correctional Advisory Panel.

His list of awards is also lengthy, but some honors are the Outstanding Judicial Service Award from the New Mexico State Bar, a Leadership Award for Contributions to Youth from the Leadership Roswell Alumni Association and an Outstanding Community Service Award from the Chaves County Bar Association.

Born in Albuquerque in 1944, he spent all but a few years of his life in his native state. He received his bachelor’s degree from the New Mexico Institute for Mining and Technology and his law degree from the University of New Mexico. It was there that he met his wife, Linda Jones, whom he married in 1968.

He worked as a district attorney and a public defender before being appointed a New Mexico 5th Judicial District judge in 1986. He served as chief justice for many of his 19 years on the bench. (Many who attended his retirement ceremony in 1994 donned bow ties for his sake.) He then practiced law with Hennighausen & Olsen and provided legal services for community groups.

Some of his many friends describe Jones as a type of Renaissance man — intellectual, religious, athletic, cultured, witty, well read and technically skilled as a pilot and sailboat captain.

“It is easy for me to describe my husband. He was the most ethical and caring person that I knew,” said Linda Jones. “He was the longest-sitting judge in Chaves County ever. He lasted for 19 years. It was a difficult job, but he had the personality for it. He was fair, ethical, compassionate. That was the main thing, he was very compassionate.”

She said the family’s tribute to him will be to continue traveling together.

“We are a very close family. Alvin and I never took a vacation without the children,” she said.

The adult children include Abraham, a mechanical engineer; Margarita, a special education teacher; Lila, a lawyer; and Trevor, a physician.

Jones recalled that the family went to some effort to rearrange family and work schedules to celebrate the couple’s 50th anniversary with a trip to Jamaica in June 2018, some months before the actual day in November.

“We just plan to keep making trips together,” she said. “That’s our way to honor our family because he was always there with them during those trips and we just enjoyed each other’s company.”

The family also has suggested memorial donations to the judge’s favorite charities, some of which have held events in his honor and plan more for the future.

Character Counts! of Chaves County will dedicate its entire year to his memory, including the Character Counts! Week at local schools in October, said Board of Directors President Amy McVay-Davis and Executive Director Tim Fuller.

“I think to me, Judge Jones was, in this area, Character Counts,” she said. “There are the pillars of character and then there is Judge Jones, and he was a pillar of character.”

McVay-Davis handed out bow tie jewelry at the memorial service at St. Peter Church, ensuring that each of the flag bearers from the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Academy who arrived early to line the street in Jones’ honor received a bow tie clip. She also said she made sure they knew about the judge and his service with Character Counts and as a tutor at the academy.

She said she intends to ensure that bow ties show up a lot during the year and that the example set by Jones continues. She also said that one of the last things Jones asked of her was to support Fuller and Character Counts.

“When Judge Jones asked you to do something, you could not say no. We couldn’t out of respect,” she said, explaining that she now wants others in the community to step up as leaders. “We could not say no to Judge Jones, so how can we challenge the community to not say no?”

Fuller said the judge had not held an official position with the organization for many years, although he once was one of its co-directors, but Fuller said that everything the organization did and planned was shared with the judge.

The group seeks to instill character in youth through various programs and workshops offered at schools and universities, youth sports activities, community organizations and even businesses. The group also holds annual banquets to recognize people of character, including teachers and coaches, athletes and law enforcement and first responders.

“It is our duty as adults to teach kids, to teach others good character,” he said. “They are not born with good character, so it is our duty to make sure that it is part of children’s lives. He was a judge for all those years and he saw so much, not bad people, but people without good character.”

His wife said the organization was “dear to him.”

“He felt that Character Counts was crucial to develop conscience in children, to develop a sense of right and wrong, to develop empathy, compassion, responsibility, etc.,” she said. “He strongly felt that the whole country lacks education in how to raise children to be caring, responsible, ethical people.”

His concern wasn’t limited to just youth, though.

“No matter what, he always had a high regard for people who were trying to do something. He was always encouraging to do things, to get involved,” said his friend Stan Nelson, who added that Jones lived what he preached. “All I can say, he was a real friend. No matter what you did, he was always encouraging that you would persist. He was supportive.”

Nelson said that he knew Jones for about 15 years. They were both members of the local squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, which operates under the U.S. Air Force and conducts reconnaissance and search and rescue missions. Jones also served as the lawyer for the New Mexico chapter of the group.

But Nelson also knew other sides of the judge, including his fondness for ballroom dancing, which they and their wives did together at a local dancing club.

That light-hearted aspect of the judge was something several friends mentioned.

“He had a tremendous sense of humor,” said Susan Sharp, his legal assistant at Hennighausen & Olsen for nine years. “He always looked solemn and like a judge, so to speak, but he always managed to say things to kind of break the ice and things to make situations here a little lighter, a little easier to take. That was my favorite thing about judge.”

Jones worked primarily in aviation and water rights law with the firm following his retirement from the bench, work he continued until his death.

His law partner, A.J. Olsen, has many words of praise for his colleague.

“I mean all the adjectives and nouns are applicable, a gentleman, gracious,” he said. “And he was a man of his word and that was most important of all because we worked together all these years on a handshake.”

His widow remembered all the times people in the community came up to him at local stores or events and thanked him for his rulings that they said saved their lives.

“He and I used to discuss things and I would say, why did you give that guy a break,” she said, “and he would say, because everyone deserves a chance.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.