Former Oregon Rep. Denny Jones returns to Capitol at age 100?eastern heal

It isnt necessarily his uncertain medical prognosis that is ending his legislative tenure. Instead, it is term limits, approved by voters in 1992, that will force out Jones and 20 other House members who have served at least three terms. Their only hope for reprieve lies in asking voters to allow more years of service. Legislative leaders are considering putting the matter on the ballot.

I spent most of it on whiskey and women, Jones is said to have replied, and the rest of it I just wasted.

Jones recalls telling them: “Why dont you require that the girls have to get their parents permission before they get pregnant?

But just as he shrugged off his horse-riding injuries, Jones scoffs at any doubts about his ability to stay in the saddle through the rest of the session.

Jones was given the chairmanship of the Ways and Means natural resources subcommittee. He has just begun working over the budget of the Department of Land Conservation and Development, one of his vorite whipping boys.

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SALEM-The last time I interviewed Denny Jones, it was 1997 and the 86-year-old rancher was wrapping up a 24-year stint in the Legislature. Jones was a tough guy, but he had just had cancer surgery and he told me the doctors decided to skip chemotherapy because of his age.

That toughness typifies Jones approach to what probably is the final session of his more than 24 years in the Legislature.

In ct, he says he is looking forward to getting back to working on the mily ranch, now that its being run by a granddaughter and her husband who are new to the business.

He also shocked anti-abortion activists two years ago when he voted against a bill requiring that minors notify their parents before getting an abortion.

He was praised in both chambers as a legislator who knew how to bridge party lines and didnt take himself too seriously. He attracted a big crowd of former legislators, lobbyists and at least two former governors that I saw, Vic Atiyeh and Ted Kulongoski.

Well, in celebration of Denny Jones Day, Im re-running a profile I wrote following that interview back in 1997. Given Jones remarkable run, the story seems even more interesting today:

It is there that small subcommittees hash out the states budget after listening to hours of often mind-numbing testimony. “He really values that hes the caretaker looking over everybodys shoulder, said Rep. Bill Markham, R-Riddle, who admits he wouldnt have the patience for Ways and Means.

Jones first won a seat on the committee in 1981 but has been mostly frustrated in his quest to be chairman. In 1995, then-House Speaker Bev Clarno, R-Bend, created the unusual arrangement of Jones and Rep. Bob Repine, R-Grants Pass, co-chairmen of the committees House side. The Senate also has a co-chair on the committee.

Whatever happens, the Legislature will not see another quite like Denny Jones. He is the last living link in the Capitol to the old cowboy era of Eastern Oregon, that time around the turn of the century when a hardy breed of cattle ranchers settled the high desert.

Thanks for this post, Jeff. I hope Denny Jones enjoyed theFormer Oregon Rep. Denny Jones returns to Capitol at age 100?eastern heal day. I enjoyed rereading the profile and recalled some of those good quotes and other lines. You captured him, all right.

He knocked around as a ranch hand, married his wife, Mildred, in 1931 and worked on his cousins cattle ranch in Malheur County. In 1949, he bought the ranch and worked it until a son and daughter-in-law took over in 1970.

“I believe he would take the appropriate action at that point and resign so a replacement would be appointed, Lundquist said. “He would not want to be a stumbling block in this process.


“Ive been fighting them ever since I got here in 73, Jones said. He figures the fewer the bodies in the department, the fewer regulations on landowners.

Former Oregon Rep. Denny Jones returns to Capitol at age 100?eastern heal,I have to say, I didnt then expect to be seeing him 14 years later. But there he was Thursday at the age of 100 as the Oregon Legislature celebrated Denny Jones Day at the Capitol.

“Oh, hell, he said. “I feel great.

Jones, angered by the slight, has stopped attending the party caucuses that are held most days the House is in session. He told a reporter it wasnt something he wanted to talk about, but his colleagues say Jones still is a team player to the extent that he continues to support Republican rule over the House.

Jones has appeared more frail since his surgery, but he stayed alert as he chaired a lengthy hearing this week that caused a colleague to occasionally nod off.

Patience and perseverence

Back in action

Jones quick return was important to Republicans because they have only 31 votes in the House, the minimum needed to pass a bill. Lundquist said he has not talked to Jones about what would happen if his health took a turn for the worse and he was not able to carry on his duties.

“Hes been one of those downstate legislators who is also in tune with the needs of Portland, said Rep. Margaret Carter, D-Portland. “You can mention Tri-Met to him and it is not a dirty word.

Bored, he ran for an open House seat in 1972 and has been in the Legislature since. Surprisingly for a man who had spent most of his life on the open range, Jones found hiseastern health vic niche in the cramped hearing rooms of the Joint Ways and Means Committee.

He was born in 1910 in Morrow County. His mother died when he was 5, and he says he left home at 15 because his stepmother didnt like him. For two years, he was a professional jockey on a horse-racing circuit that stretched from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Tijuana, Mexico.

When a horse fell on Rep. Denny Jones three years ago and broke two of his ribs, he climbed back on and continued his ride in the sagebrush country of southeastern Oregon.

Thats one of the cleaner sentences anyone will get from Jones. His lines generally are sprinkled with expletives, usually ones that refer to the Lords damnation and the waste product of male cattle. Of course, hes had a lot to cuss about in his life.

“I did real good, he said. “I won lots of races. But when I got all I wanted to eat, I grew too big to ride.

Jones said doctors told him there was a 65 percent chance they got all of the cancer. If he were a younger man, he said, they would have recommended chemotherapy.

“A lot of people write him off and say hes a knee-jerk conservative, said lobbyist Mark Nelson, whose clients include defense lawyers, “but hes not that way at all.

It was a two-edged decision. Jones was honored for his years of service, but Repine was regarded as the real power on the budget. As this session approached, incoming House Speaker Lynn Lundquist, R-Powell Butte, traveled to Jones ranch house near Juntura to tell him that Repine would be the sole co-chairman from the House.

“That was very hard to do, said Lundquist, also a rancher.

Seven days after his March 7 surgery to remove an intestinal tumor — “They took out about 12 inches of my gut, he said — the Republican lawmaker from Ontario was back in his Capitol office, overriding his doctors recommendation that he extend his hospital stay.

My vorite line of the day was from Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, who said he once asked Jones what he did with the money he had made from ranching.

But perhaps as important, Jones also is one of those veteran lawmakers who has won wide respect for his knowledge and concern for the entire state. He may talk like a prototypical rancher who distrusts environmentalists, liberals and urbanites, but lobbyists and lawmakers have learned that Jones will listen with an open mind.

It shouldnt be any surprise that Jones, 86, the oldest member of the Oregon Legislature, barely let cancer surgery slow him down this year.

Putting the spurs to life

Jones puts it simply “I try to represent the whole state. Except if it comes down to the nut, Im going to support Eastern Oregon.

Jones broke with many conservatives to vote money for Portlands light-rail expansion two years ago. In the same shion, he gripes that the state is easy on criminals, but he also insists that the Legislature come through with enough money to pay for lawyers for poor defendants.

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