BY CAROL ROEHM
Former Danville Mayor Robert E. Jones was in the middle of cooking for the Masonic Lodge when he learned late last week he had been selected as the 47th inductee of the Danville High School’s Wall of Fame.
The DHS Wall of Fame was established in 1991 to promote pride in Danville and in District 118 as well as to provide role models for DHS students.
Jones joins 46 members of this group that includes community volunteers, an astronaut, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, a Pulitzer Prize recipient and Oscar, Emmy and Tony winners.
“It’s pretty awesome,” he said. “I was really kind of speechless.”
Jones, a 1956 graduate of DHS, said his high school years made a lasting impression on him.
“It was an important part of my life,” he said.
Jones was a member of the wrestling team all four years and was captain of the wrestling team his junior year and president of the boys’ athletics club his senior year.
“Coach (Don) Pittman was a good role model,” he said of the popular DHS football and wrestling coach. “He taught us to never give up. That’s helped me to persevere throughout my life.”
Jones also served on the student council and was program chairman of the Projector Club.
“My high school years were memorable and a good time,” he added.
A lifelong resident of the Danville area, Jones first worked then managed a number of local restaurants and stores before purchasing the Colonial Parkway Restaurant in 1970, a popular establishment he operated until 1994.
He has owned and operated a Dairy Queen in Danville since 1982. He opened the new Dairy Queen on East Main Street in 2003.
In addition to being a successful Danville businessman, Jones also has served the public in a variety of elected political offices. After serving as Vermilion County treasurer from 1978-1987, Jones was elected mayor of Danville in 1987, an office he held for 16 years during four terms.
Jones was the first mayor elected under the new aldermanic form of government. During his administration, he held economic summits, the new Danville Public Library was built, the Vermilion County War Museum was established in the former library building, the Winter Avenue Soccer Complex and AMBUCS Playground for Everyone were opened, and Danville Stadium was renovated. McLane Midwest, AutoZone and Alcoa located in the city during his tenure as mayor, and the Lynch area was further developed.
An active 33rd Degree Mason, Jones is a life member and past master of the Anchor Lodge 980. His active and sustained support was instrumental in the establishment of the Masonic Learning Center for dyslexic children.
The City of Danville named City Hall in his honor after he ended his tenure as mayor.
Jones will be formally inducted into the Danville High School’s Wall of Fame at an event later this year.
Nominations for DHS’ Wall of Fame are received each year, and a community committee reviews the nominations and selects up to two inductees annually.
Categories for achievement may include but are not limited to: business/industry/entrepreneurship, entertainment/sports, service professions (education, religion, politics, law, medicine, etc.), and/or distinguished service to the community served by District 118.
A nine-member independent community committee reviewed the nominations and selected Jones as the inductee for 2012.
Superintendent Mark Denman said the committee received about a dozen nominations this year and noted that a number of Jones’ classmates from 1956 nominated him.
Denman said Jones was “very worthy” of the honor because of “his selfless service to the community as well as being a volunteer and supporter of the dyslexic school.”
“His leadership was crucial in getting the school set up,” he said.
This was the second year for the new selection committee, which is comprised of representatives from the school district, Danville Public School Foundation, Vermilion County Museum and Danville Area Community College.