TAMPA — John Arthur Jones was many things to his friends and colleagues.
War hero. Accomplished lawyer. Devoted father of four and husband of more than 60 years.
“He was one fine, tough person,” said longtime friend and law partner John Germany.
Jones, who helped create the law firm of Holland and Knight, died Tuesday morning at his Tampa home. He was 92.
“The word ‘great’ is about the only thing I can say that describes him,” said Germany, 91. “We were lucky to have had him.”
Jones joined the firm in May 1949 and helped facilitate the later mergers that eventually resulted in the formation of Holland and Knight.
Throughout his long career, Jones earned a national reputation in the field of trusts, estates and fiduciary law. In 2009, he was honored by the firm for his six decades of contributions to the field of law.
He was known as the “Dean of Probate Law,” said Brad Kimbro, Holland and Knight’s executive partner for the Tampa Bay area. Jones was so well-respected within the probate community that, years ago, everyone working in the field in Florida started using a certain form that Jones created and thought was useful. Kimbro said it was nicknamed the “John Arthur form.”
Jones also developed a reputation for his work in banking and real estate law and took pride in guiding young lawyers as they began their careers with Holland and Knight, Kimbro said.
“I think he really enjoyed mentoring younger lawyers and spent a lot of time doing that,” Kimbro said.
Former Florida Gov. Bob Martinez, now a senior policy advisor with the firm, called Jones a pioneer within Holland and Knight. He said that even after 60 years, Jones still loved his job and coming to work.
“He never lost his enthusiasm for law,” Martinez said.
Jones was born in Nocatee, near Arcadia. He joined the Army Reserve and served in the 95th Infantry Division in World War II.
Before the war, he worked as a bookkeeper at a lumber company in Immokalee. He attended business college in Jacksonville before enrolling in law school at the University of Florida.
In a 2009 interview with The Tampa Tribune, Jones said he had practiced just about every type of law but never handled a divorce.
“After 60 years of practice, I’m still proud of my profession,” Jones told the Tribune. “It doesn’t have the glitter and shine it once had, but it’s still an honorable profession.”
Jones’ wife of 64 years, Sally, died in November 2013. They had four children: Matthew, Lisa, Malcolm and Darby.
The reception area and conference room of Holland and Knight’s Tampa office already is named after Jones, Kimbro said. The firm will likely do something else to honor his memory and legacy at the firm.
Jones still practiced law until the last year or so, when his declining health prevented him from working, Germany said.
Germany visited Jones at his waterfront home every Sunday, when they would reminisce about old times. Jones could see out over the water and feed the birds like he loved to do.
“It’s like a part of me that has died,” Germany said.
But he knows his friend is in a better place, he said. And Jones lived life to the fullest, going from a small town to become a senior partner at one of Florida’s largest and most prestigious law firms.
“He lived a wonderful life,” Germany said. “You couldn’t ask for more.”
Information from Tribune archives was used in this report.