When the Virginia General Assembly is in session, the office of Jay Jones ’10 runs like a well-oiled machine. His days are filled with constituent phone calls, emails, and visits, committee meetings and caucusing. Although the legislative building in Richmond is pure energy and chaos, Jones doesn’t seem harried. At 29, he is the youngest member of the Virginia legislature, but he carries the position with grace and ease. After all, it’s a role he was seemingly born to play.
Indeed, Jones is as close to royalty as one can get in Norfolk, Virginia. The seat he holds in the Virginia legislature, representing the 89th District, was once held by his father, Jerrauld Jones, who is currently a judge on the Norfolk Circuit Court. His mother, Lyn Simmons, is also a judge, in the Norfolk Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. Jones’ maternal grandparents were college professors, and his paternal grandparents, Hilary and Corinne Jones, were civil rights heroes in the area, helping to integrate the local schools, with his grandfather serving as the first African-American member of the Norfolk School Board. It’s a legacy of which he’s always been highly conscious.
“I have good memories of driving around the city with my dad when he was a delegate, but I also spent years studiously trying to avoid political life,” Jones says. “Every day I’m surprised to find I’m living it.”
Jones spent his young adulthood pursuing other paths. A graduate of Norfolk Collegiate School, he came to William & Mary on a full academic scholarship as a W&M Scholar, breaking the family’s long tradition of attending Hampton University. Although he knew of William & Mary as a rigorous academic institution, he admits that the university was not initially on his radar.
“I always saw myself going to a large urban state university, somewhere in D.C. or the Northeast,” he recalls. “Williamsburg didn’t register as an option because it was small and just too close to home.”
After enjoying a weekend with friends on the William & Mary campus, Jones quickly changed his mind. He majored in government and history, which he credits with teaching him to think critically about institutions of government and the legislative process.