Columnist, 101, Delights Readers With Hometown Stories

George Jones shows no signs of slowing down.
Columnist, 101, Delights Readers With Hometown Stories
Mr. Jones, who has written for decades, refuses to get paid for his work. (Courtesy of George Jones)
Randy Tatano

Back in ’24, George Jones probably spent a lot of time playing.

Of course, that was in 1924, when he was a toddler. In 2024, the 101-year-old World War II veteran spends a lot of time writing columns for the local newspaper. He might need a walker to get around his assisted-living facility in Monroeville, Alabama, and there’s a bit of gravel in his voice, but his brain isn’t on Social Security. “Sharp as a tack” is a term that would aptly apply to Mr. Jones.

It’s possible that he might be the oldest working journalist in the country. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

What’s more amazing is that Mr. Jones didn’t start writing until he was in his 70s.

“I flunked retirement the first year after I sold my business,” he said. He hadn’t even worked in a field related to writing or anything creative, instead owning a wholesale supply company. But like many who need something to do in retirement, he found that he enjoyed writing about family history. He started reading his work to his wife, who asked him to write more.

In 1996, he met a local editor, shared some of his work, and was asked to bring more. His hometown stories have been a must-read in the local newspaper, the Monroe Journal, ever since.

Well, there was that short time when a new editor from out of town killed his column, but some backlash from local subscribers quickly ended that experiment: “Some woman went down to the newspaper and let him have it.”

He talks of his time in the service, serving as a first lieutenant in George Patton’s Army. “I spent 93 days in combat in the Battle of the Bulge,” he said. But most of his stories are about his hometown and the experiences of time periods few can remember. In some ways, Mr. Jones is a living bit of history, sharing tales about the people he knew and life back in the day.

At 101, column writer George Jones is "sharp as a tack." (Courtesy of George Jones)
At 101, column writer George Jones is "sharp as a tack." (Courtesy of George Jones)

He refuses to get paid for his work, although the publisher does drop by every year with a Christmas bonus. Writing is more than just something to pass the time. “I’ve enjoyed it, and I’ve had great associations with people because of it. I’d have to say my success is because I don’t write anything derogatory,” he said. Actually, his success is because of the fact that he writes very well.

And if you think Mr. Jones is old-school, changing typewriter ribbons and using carbon paper, you’d be wrong. He creates his columns like any other writer today, using a computer, doing research on the internet, and emailing his work to his editor.

He had a hint of his distant future when he was 10 years old. “I may have had a little talent given to me,” he said. His teacher gave the students an assignment to write an essay. After he handed his in, the teacher called him out in front of the class. He recalls her saying: “Did you write this or did your mother? Because I showed it to two other teachers. You’re not smart enough to do this.” But that talent lay dormant for more than 60 years.

Mr. Jones, though very humble about his work, has proof that it touches readers. “I’ve got three binders full of letters from people,” he said. He just finished a series on World War II and received more than 100 replies.

When asked if he’d ever written fiction, he shared the tale of an unpublished work. It turns out that he may have thought he was too young and inexperienced. “I wrote one novel. I was but 94 years old.”

He shows no signs of slowing down, so he’ll continue to write his weekly story. At his age, to use an old newspaper term, every edition is an extra.

Randy Tatano is a former local television reporter and network producer who now writes political thrillers as Nick Harlow. He grew up in a New York City suburb and lives on the Gulf Coast with his wife and four cats.