Perry Jones has lived in Union Bridge since 1970. He owns and works at his fathers auto mechanical shop.
PERRY JONES: OK, my name’s Perry Jones. And I live in Union Bridge. Matter of fact, I’ve lived there since– I’ve lived right in the town of Union Bridge since 1970. So I guess that’s pretty much all my life.
Before that, I was just about two miles outside of Union Bridge in the Frederick County side. So I still consider myself as being a long-time resident of Union Bridge, because I’ve always lived so close to it.
INTERVIEWER: Great, what was it like growing up? Union Bridge is on the smaller town, not as big as, say, like a Baltimore City, or Washington DC. What was it like growing up in a smaller town like that?
PERRY JONES: Well, I started working at the garage in Union Bridge that my father owned. I started working there when I was 13-years-old. And at one time of day, I could tell you everybody that lived in town, what street they lived on, and where they lived, and everything.
And it’s changed a little bit over the last few years. We’re still one of the– we are still the smallest town in Carroll County. It depends on when you take the census. One year we might be 990. And the next time we’re 996. So we still haven’t reached that 1,000 mark.
But it’s still a quiet little town. And it’s been a– it’s– everybody there treats you just like family. You know, it’s like if somebody has a problem, and everybody’s there to help everybody out. So it’s real quaint little town.
INTERVIEWER: So small time growing up, did you have a lot of friends?
PERRY JONES: Yes had a lot of friends growing up, and still have a lot of those same friends. We have people that I’ve grown up with ever since I was just a very young child in that town. And probably one of my oldest and dearest friends is a gentleman that lives at the Middleburg Nursing Home at this time. He just turned 103-years-old– Clarence Singer. So he’s there’s a lot of good memories of Union Bridge.
People that– used to be, the people that moved there, they stayed there all their life. And, you know, people worked at Lehigh. And you had the farming community, and things like that. So everybody– it wasn’t a lot of moving around from place to place.
INTERVIEWER: Can you tell us about your family a little bit?
PERRY JONES: OK, my mom and dad, like I say, we– I was born in a little town right inside of Frederick County, Johnsville. And my father was from right in Union Bridge. And he met my mom when he worked on a farm. And they got married.
And I guess at that time, when I was born, we lived on that farm right outside of Johnsville in Frederick county. And we lived there till I was about, I guess, about nine-years-old we moved to Liberty Town. And my dad at that time started working at the garage in Union Bridge, commuting from Liberty Town back and forth.
And– and- we had– I had two sisters, and one other brother. And everybody kind of, like, stayed close to home for a long time. We moved– like I said, in 1970, we moved to Union Bridge.
And my sister worked, I guess, the sewing factory there at Union bridge at the time. My brother and I worked at the garage. And then my younger sister was like 11 years younger. She was the youngest.
So, you know, everybody was there together. My dad, his name is Perry Jones Sr. And they called him Tuck. And he inherited that name from his grandfather.
And– so like I said, that’s where the Tucks– Tuck Jone Service Station came from, you know, the garage that we have. And my mom, she was a– she was a housewife, and took care of the family, and things like that. She also helped a lot of people in the community.
And she still does. She’s 71-years-old. She’ll be 72 this year. And she still goes out and helps people that are, you know, needing someone to sit with them during the day, or in the evening. She’ll go out, and sit with people, and always running somebody to the doctor, and things like that, and back and forth.
So we’re kind of community-oriented. My dad and I were the first African-Americans in Carroll County to join the volunteer fire company. We joined Union Bridge Fire Company in the fall of 1972.
And I was very active in the fire company until 1980 when my dad passed away. And then by having the business, and I was asked at that time to get on the Union Bridge Town Council to fulfill an 11-month term that he had left in his term. And at that time, I had to decide, you know, did I want to keep active in the fire company? Because I had the business, and doing the work for the town.
So I had to give something up. And at that time, I kind of like– a still stayed a member of the fire company, but not active– helped at the carnival and things like that. So it was kind of like– it was something I really didn’t want to do. But I had to decide on where I wanted to go.
If you wanted to give 100% in something that you done, and I felt at that time that the business needed my devoted, you know, participation in the business. And then I was very active in the town of Union Bridge at that time when I got on the town council. So.
INTERVIEWER: What kind of many was your father?
PERRY JONES: Well, I think he was great. He was a guy that was probably about five foot eight, five foot nine, a little stocky guy. And, you know, he was– he meant a lot to me.
He was always at the– at the garage. You know, he was sitting at his desk back there. And if I run into a problem, I could ask him. And, you know, he’d try to work things out. And a very understanding man– back in– like, say, he worked at that garage from 19 early 64, somewhere in that area, until ’68 when he bought the business for himself.
And in May of 1968 is when he bought the business. And that was about a month or so– it was the time that Martin Luther King was killed in. And, you know, for an African-American buying a business, and going out on his own at that time in 1968, it took a lot of courage.
And, you know– and courage he had. He was a gentleman that– he’s always drilled into my head, and my brother’s head, and our whole family, and after he passed away, my mother’s done the same thing. You never let anyone tell you you can’t do something, because when they tell you you can’t do it, that’s when you have to prove to them that you can.
So that’s always kind of, like, stuck in the back of my mind. And that’s what we’ve, you know, always– that’s one thing I remember about him. He was very understanding, very– what I thought when I was growing up my parents were a little harsh at times, you know. But I thank them for that.
They didn’t– you know– you know, we had rules that we had to follow. We had curfews that we had to follow. You know, I was 18 years old, had my own car and everything. And I came home one night at 2 o’clock in the morning.
My mom says, where were you? And I said, I was, you know, I stopped at the fire hall. And I was talking to some guy. She says, well, next week you can walk to the fire hall and talk to them because you’re not moving your car.
And I said, well, you know, I said, that’s my car. I pay rent. I pay the insurance on that car. I pay for it.
She says, yes, but you live under my roof. And that’s the way things were. That was the end of the conversation.
And nowadays, you know, you look at the young kids. We have problems with children in Union Bridge at 12, 14-years-old running up and down the streets at 12:00, 1:00, 2:00 o’clock in the morning. And that wouldn’t have happened in my dad. My parents wouldn’t put up with that.
INTERVIEWER: How do you– do have children yourself?
PERRY JONES: I have a son that’s 26– yeah, just turned 26-years-old. He lives in Taneytown. He’s married and has a son of his own that’s four-years-old. So, you know, it’s kind of nice to see the way that I grew up, and see the way children grow up today. And my son does real good job with his son. So I’m proud of him for that.
INTERVIEWER: That’s wonderful. Did you take a lot from your parents in the way that you reared your child?
PERRY JONES: Um, well, you know, I tried to raise it in the way they– you know, they raised me. Of course, things is a lot different today. You know, everybody– you know, you always want your children to have more than what you had when you were growing up. And I tried doing that for him.
And, you know he’s– he’s– he’s had a lot of difficulties. He’s grown up with a lot of things. His mother and I separated and divorced when he was about 12. And– and then when he was, I guess, 20-years-old, his mom passed away, you know.
So he’s had– he’s grown up a lot in the last few years, you know. And, of course, I’ve always been there for him. But he’s a– he’s a good, strong, young man. And he’s got a head on his shoulders. And one day, he will– he’s one of those guys that, you know, he’s going– to somebody’s going to look back at him and say, you’re the future of this world, or this country. And he’s going to be one of those guys.
INTERVIEWER: That’s wonderful. That’s amazing. What was it like being a single father, and having responsibility when you were with your child? How did you accept that responsibility? Was that a difficult change to make in my life?
PERRY JONES: No, it wasn’t that difficult. I mean, like I say, his– his– his mom was still living until he was like 20. But, I mean, you know, so we had joint custody of him.
And he– like I say, he was a good kid. I mean, he participated n a lot of activities in school, and things like that. And he wanted to make sure his mom was taken care of. And he’s always been out there.
He was always a kid in the neighborhood that if there was another child that needed something, he was always, you know, really good with children. And so I didn’t have a lot of problems with him growing up. I was very fortunate, you know.
He started out, he wanted to be a schoolteacher. And then he changed his mind. And he got into a different career. But he– I wish he would have, because he’s very good with children himself. So I think he’d have made an excellent teacher.
INTERVIEWER: What sort of career is he in now?
PERRY JONES: He’s in the– working for alarm system company, putting alarms in new houses, and things like that down through– well, all over Carroll County, Howard County, Anne Arundel. And he really enjoys doing that.
INTERVIEWER: Backing up a little bit, growing up in Frederick County, then Carroll County when you did, being African-American, did you face challenges with that in a predominantly white area at the time?
PERRY JONES: Well, I think at the time– and probably the area that I grew up in was a lot better. Like I say, the Johnsville area, I mean, that was a quaint little town. It’s about three and a half miles outside of Union Bridge.
And it’s basically like Union Bridge. It’s people that grew up in that town live there forever. And you were– you were basically family. So the object of growing up in color in that area did not mean anything. I mean, it was just like, when you walked into somebody’s house, you sat down, and you ate, and you was– that’s who you were. It wasn’t a big difficulty there.
And even when we moved to Union Bridge, it wasn’t that much of a problem. Now, I know when you get outside of some of the other areas of Carroll County and Frederick County, it was a big problem until, you know, like probably late ’60s, early ’70s. But I was just fortunate that my parents always lived in an area where we didn’t have that problem.
INTERVIEWER: How does carry over to your later years, when you started campaigning, and becoming more of a public figure in politics?
PERRY JONES: Well, I don’t think it actually ever made a difference. Like I say, I– my father passed away in 1980. And he had 11 months to go in his four-year term. And the mayor and town council at that time asked me if I would, you know, finish the 11 months.
So I thought about it. And I talked to the mayor, and a couple of council people. And they said, we’d love to have you.
And, you know, so I finished that 11 months. And I figured this would be it. And I ended up running for reelection– running for election that year. And I guess I ran for three elections, and ran– you know, won three times. And then our mayor– that was Mr. Ed Wilier– He was mayor of the town for like 33 years. He was ready to retire.
And so I ran for mayor. And, you know, eventually got that seat, and then ran for county commissioner. And it really has never made– at least I’ve never heard of it making a difference of color in Carroll County, you know, when I was running for office. Had some problems the last election down on Route 27 that, you know, some vandals vandalized one of my 4×8 with the n word and things like that on the sign.
But, you know, that’s just the nature of the beast. You’re going to have that. And we changed the sign. We went on. We had an election to run. And I don’t think it ever made a difference. I never heard anybody made any derogatory remarks, you know, the whole time that I was– you know, toward me or my family while I was running for office.
INTERVIEWER: Working in politics, how difficult is it to separate that business side of things of, this is the nature of the beast, and the personal influence. Because I would imagine being faced with the derogatory comments on the sign, I mean, that would probably be pretty troubling personally. How do you find a way to keep those separated?
PERRY JONES: Well, I think you have to– you know, you have to be a strong-minded person, strong will. And, you know, you think of your friends that you that are with you side by side, you know, that work with you day and night. And, you know, and I had that relationship with a lot of the people at the county office building that I’ve worked with every day. And people all over Carroll County, they called up, and said, you know, we don’t like this.
We don’t know what happened. And, you know, you need help getting your sign down, and putting a new sign up, we’ll help you do that. And, you know, it was just that relationship with people. They really make you feel comfortable and at home. So I think that’s one thing that helps you get along through this world.
INTERVIEWER: So when your father passed away, you had– you finished his term, which was 11 months?
PERRY JONES: 11 months, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: So the 11 months or up. What made you decide to keep going with it?
PERRY JONES: Well, I guess– I guess at that time, 11 months, I liked what I was doing. And it really isn’t enough time to really get your feet wet, you know. You know, I was kind of a new guy. I was the youngest person at that time that was ever on the Union Bridge Town Council.
So I was, you know, getting around the county, getting to meet a lot of different people, you know, and getting into politics aspect. And it was– fortunately, a lot of the people that I was meeting when I first got on the town council, a lot of them were people that I have already met in the last several years through the volunteer fire company that were, you know, play double roles in different aspects of their life.
So I knew a lot– I met a lot of these people over again– you know, that I didn’t meet them over again. But I was still working with the same people. And, I guess at that 11 months, I said, well, you know, 11 months really wasn’t long enough. Let me try again.
So I decided to run for another four years. And then at that time, you know, you start projects. And you really want to see things that you’ve started finish. So then I ran for office again. And it just kept on going.
INTERVIEWER: So backing up a little bit, how– from growing up in the small town, after high school, where did you go then? What was the next step?
PERRY JONES: OK, when I got out of high school, my dad– he’s– it was like 1970. My dad says, OK, I want you to go out and get a job somewhere else. And, you know, he had the business there.
And I wanted to stay in the business and make it a family business, because it’s something that he always wanted to do. And, you know, his dad– I can remember when I was a kid, my grandfather would always have cars sitting in the yard where they lived. And he was always working on somebody’s car.
And my dad started doing that. And, you know, he started working at the garage. And I just decided that working on cars was something I wanted to do. And it was– it was an opportunity to work side by side every day beside my dad, and learn from him. And that’s what I decided to do.
INTERVIEWER: That’s great. There seems to be almost two legacies you have going. There’s the one of being remembered– you’ll be remembered as a political figure. And people identify you as very successful in politics– in local politics in Carroll County– and also this other side that is maintaining that family business. Why is it important when, after you were a commissioner, that you decided to go back to the gas station, and the garage, and keep that business going?
PERRY JONES: Well, I mean, even when I was a commissioner, you know, when I had, like, weekends, evenings had spare time, I mean, every weekend I was at the station unless there was something I had to do for the county. In the evenings, I was still there, still got– still, when I was commissioner, would still go out on the tow truck and drive the tow trucks. And it was funny. You’d go out. And you’d see one of the deputies.
Or you’d see a state trooper or somebody. And they’ll say, what are you doing driving a tow truck? You know, I did this before I was ever a county commissioner, you know. So I’m– I never left. I came– I enjoy doing it. And it’s the aspect of being able to help people.
As far as going back to the garage, my mom, like I say, she’s there. And, you know, my brother and I want to make sure that my mom’s taken care of. We run the business.
And when I started as County Commissioner, my brother’s son– which he was, at that time, was about 30-years-old, 29 or 30, somewhere along there– he worked for a garage in Liberty Town. And he came down and worked for us also. So we had another generation of the family that’s there.
And I guess is one of those things. You know, Union Bridge being small, you see the farms in Union Bridge, they go from generation to generation. And a lot of the people, the workforce there– same as Lehigh– goes from generation to generation. And I guess we wanted to do the same thing.
INTERVIEWER: So you’ve kind of been able to maintain kind of being your own boss up to this point, in owning the business, and then in working in politics, working for the people. Do you think that’s– if you were to go back and do it over again, do you you– that’s the kind of environment that you have to work in? That’s what’s best for you? Or would you kind of prefer to have a kind of, quote unquote, more normalcy in a job?
PERRY JONES: Well, a more normal job a lot of times is better, because, you know, you have regular hours that you go to work, and regular hours that you come home. You know, when you’re in this business, you go to work when people need you. And it’s just like being a politician. You’re there when people need you.
It’s not a nine to five job. You know, someday you may have to be here at 7 o’clock. And, you know, the job that I have now, we– someone calls it 3:00, 4:00 o’clock in the morning, needs a tow truck, somebody has to be there.
And it’s been a public servant. Whether you’re in politics, or whether you’re in business for yourself, the kind of business I am, you are a servant of the people.
INTERVIEWER: What was it like after making– going from your office as a commissioner to full-time working at the station?
PERRY JONES: Well, it was– don’t know. It was, I guess, a little bit different. You know, I was going back to the station at 7:00 or 7:30 in the morning, compared to a lot of times– well, and that depends on what you had to do at the county. You know, sometimes you had 7:00 o’clock meetings or 7:30 meetings in the county somewhere.
Or you had to leave at 7:)) o’clock in the morning to get to Annapolis by a good time in the morning, go to a meeting. So it was– I guess, in a way, it was a little– it was a little different, you know, because I was coming back more or less being your own boss, you know, compared to actually– you know, your constituents are your boss when you’re in that job.
So it’s– I miss it. You know, I’m not sure that where I’m at now is something that I want to do for the rest of my life. I get– sometimes I get a little antsy. I want to get involved in something else. So I’m not exactly sure exactly where I’m going to go from here.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think you’ll end up back in politics in the future?
PERRY JONES: Well, I don’t know. You know, there’s a lot of things that could happen in the next year or so. You know, there’s talking about five commissioners by district. You know, there’s a lot of alternatives that could happen, you know.
I’m not sure I could– whether I’ll get back into politics, or maybe get a government job, you know. I don’t know. It’s so many prospects out there, you know.
And this past, you know, eight or nine months has been kind of good just to try to refocus, and get your mind together that what you might want to do in the future. But– and I really haven’t decided that yet, you know, whether I want to get back into politics. I talk to a lot of people every day.
And if they go five commissioners by district, there’s going to be a boatload of people out there running. And the issues that are facing Carroll County today, I haven’t decided whether I really want to get back into that or not. I think that– I think it’s very important for people that want to get there, and try to think of keeping open space in Carroll County, preserving the ag land preservation, preserving our farms, worrying about water and sewer. What’s going to happen with water in the future?
And– but, you know, people need a place to live. Do we keep building houses on every little inch of land that we have? That’s going to be a big thing in the next election that’s coming up. And we’re going to have people there that want to think about selling real estate and getting rich.
And then we’re going to have people that are out there saying, you know, it’s time to slow down on the growth, and preserve some more ag land, you know, preserve what we have. And everybody’s got to eat. If you keep putting houses on all this stuff, we’re going to have to keep importing stuff.
And it’s just like everything else, you know. You look at the imports that we’ve gotten over the past year with some of the meats and stuff from other country, it hasn’t been good. Your vegetables haven’t been good. And it’s time that we start thinking about what we can do in Maryland and throughout the United States to preserve that for ourselves so that we don’t have to get imported stuff.
And this is going to be big issues. And, you know, when you talk to some of these people that are, you know, thinking about running for office, some of these people aren’t thinking about that. They’re thinking about a way to get– to sell this land off and get rich.
And thank God, we have farmers in Carroll County that aren’t just thinking about that. They want to keep farming. And they want to stay in Maryland. They want to stay in Carroll County.
And I think we have to think of ways that we can preserve this ag land, you know, and keep these farmers here, and, you know, help out the best way we can, and worry about where we’re going to get the water, and what we’re going to do with all the sewage that we’re going to have. Because that is one of the biggest problems we’re going to have. And whether we’re going to have enough future politicians that are going to be worrying about that, you know, that depends on who’s running, and, you know, if they really have the heart and the guy to come up with hard answers, and to sit down and say no to some of these developers. That’s something we’re really going to have to look at.
INTERVIEWER: If you find yourself back into a career of politics, do you– do you have any desire or interest in expanding that past Carroll County into Maryland state politics?
PERRY JONES: Well, I’ve never thought of that. I’ve thought that– you know, and that was a question that was asked of me before, you know, if I would think about moving up the next time in election year or something. And, like I say, you know, I think we have enough problems right here in Carroll County. And we think we need some good, strong people to stay in Carroll County and take care of the problems here.
Because when you get to the state level– and I’ve been down there a lot. And sorry to say that unless you go down there, and you play taxi to a bunch of those people, you don’t get a thing done down here unless you are willing to give to them what they want. And, you know, it’s a dog-eat-dog world down there.
You sit and look at some of the bills that our legislators are putting in. And, you know, they’re putting them in every year. And they’re fighting.
And you get a couple of good bills in for Carroll County every year. But, you know, the D’s and the R’s in Annapolis, and in Washington. And until the D’s and the R’s can forget the D’s and the R’s, and start working together trying to do what’s right for the people, you say, what’s the use down there? Because we have enough problems here in Carroll County with D’s and R’s. You know, and I think– I just feel that my position, I could do more in Carroll County than I would be at a state level.
INTERVIEWER: Well, you kind of touched on it there. I want to ask, does bipartisanship really effect, do you think, government on a local level, especially in Carroll County?
PERRY JONES: It does. It does big time, because, you know– well, this past election, the last several elections in Carroll County, it was strictly a Republican county. Back in the ’60s, early ’70s, it was a Democratic county. And now it’s a Republican county.
And it doesn’t matter who you are. If you’re a Republican, and you listen the right Republican people, you’re going to get elected. But if you go against certain people in this county, even though you are a Republican– I’m a prime example– you don’t make it. If you stand up for what is right, you’re not going to be there. But it is strictly a lot of partisanship.
INTERVIEWER: In politics, how would you say real can you allow yourself to be? Or is there a necessary persona that you have to create when addressing the public and living a political life?
PERRY JONES: I think you have to be a person when you’re in a political life. You have to be accessible to the people. You have to be honest with them.
And a lot of times, you make public appearances at places that you don’t really want to go. Some people don’t want to go. I mean, I made a lot over the years.
And I can’t say that I ever really made any appearances that I didn’t really want to go. I enjoyed going out. I am a people person.
I like going out to different events, meeting people, talking to people, because you always learn something new from these people, you know. And there’s some people that just– they just dread going to political things, or they going out into the public. And if you’re going to be a politician, you have to be accessible. You have to go out to these things, whether you like going or not.
And, you know, that’s the challenge. Meeting new people, you might go out to a dinner tonight and hear some things that you don’t necessarily like. But then if you get a couple people off to the side, and you get conversation going back and forth, a lot of times they’ll say, well, you know, I really didn’t know that. Now I have a better understanding of that. And I know why you did what you did. And I think that’s a large part of it.
INTERVIEWER: So kind of in wrapping up, what would you say– are you proud, happy, with how things are going and looking forward to continuing that? Or are there regrets that are made, and decisions that you want to change in the future? Or what’s your reflection on life so far? And what are you hoping for the future? Is a better way to put that.
PERRY JONES: I have no regrets of what I’ve done in my past. Or I don’t foresee anything in the future that I think is going to cripple myself for anybody else, you know. I think I may not have done things in my life that everybody agrees with, which is satisfactory with me. I don’t do anything to hurt anybody.
I do you things that I think is satisfactory to people. And I think in the future, as far as changing things, I would just– would just like to see Carroll County continue to be the county that it is, where people can grow, and work together, and have their families. The kids go to school together.
They grow up. They go to college, come back to Carroll County to work, instead of going other places. We have 60 some thousand people a year that go up and down the roads that are leaving Carroll County. I’d love to get some these people to stay right in our county. That’s one thing I’d loved to change. Continue to work on the tech parks and things, and have people work here in the county, alleviate some of the traffic on our roads, have more open space to continue to keep green space for the future.
Other than that, I don’t really know of anything that I really want to change other than that. I think it’s a wonderful county to live in. And hope it continues to stay that way.
INTERVIEWER: Well, the purpose for this program is there’s a large archiving factor, which we’ll have the streamed on the internet for– essentially as an archive for as long as that’s possible to do. With that in mind, say 30, 40 years down the road, if someone were to be watching this video, what would you like them to know about yourself and the life that you lived?
PERRY JONES: I guess, basically, that I– you know, I grew up, and lived, and worked all my life for the people– from my family, and for the constituents of Carroll County. I think being able to work, whether you’re in volunteer organizations, or the fire company, or county commissioner, or mayor, or county– or city council person, or anything, you do it for the people that you live and work with.
And I think that– I hope 30 years down the road, they’ll look back. And they’ll say, you know, here’s a gentleman that they grew up here. And when he grew up, he was a farmer. He helped on farms.
And, you know, it’s one thing I did years ago. I used to help a farmer down the road help to make hay, and fill silo, and stuff, and help him in the evenings. And in the mornings, I’d leave there, and then come into the station and work at the garage all day, and then go back down there at night time.
You know, it’s being able to do a variety of things, not just focus on one thing in your life, but being able to help whoever needs it. My biggest thing in life was, you know, for years I was in the top 10 in the volunteer fire company on the ambulance. And being able to go out there, and see somebody that really needed your assistance, they can say, he’s did it all.
He’s did fire companies. he’s worked on farms. He worked on cars. He was a politician. And, you know, to be able to do all this, I think that’s just wonderful, because some people just grow up. And they only do one thing or two things in their life. And I think I’ve done it all.
INTERVIEWER: That’s great. Thank you so much, Mr. Jones.
PERRY JONES: Well, thank you very much.