If one’s life is a series of events and stories, then Dr. Ronald Jones has had quite a life.
The 80-year-old surgeon on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas is as distinguished as they come. His list of accolades and achievements is outstanding. But it’s his front row seat to two of the biggest stories in American history that makes him one of the most interesting people I have ever met.
Dr. Jones was a 30-year-old chief resident at Parkland Memorial Hospital when President Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963. His actions that day were detailed in a recent article in USA Today.
I sat down with him not too long ago and he reflected on the moment that the world was about to learn the President was dead.
“I would never have thought he [Jones] was 80 years old,” USA Today reporter, Rick Jervis told me after the interview. “His memory is incredible,” he added.
Dr. Jones remembers more about that day 50 years ago, than most of us can recall about last weekend. The precision and clarity of his memory from those days is well, surgical.
He can tell you where all the physicians’ hands were positioned, the look on the President’s face, and where everyone was standing in Trauma Room 1.
When he talks, you can close your eyes and almost paint a picture of that moment in time. It’s as if you were there too.
As a public relations consultant for Baylor, I’ve had the chance to work with Dr. Jones on a few occasions. I know he’s told these tales a thousand times before investigators, friends, family, even Congress–but in every interview he still talks about it like it’s the first time.
He doesn’t leave out details. He understands the importance of getting it right.
Those who are not familiar with his story forget that Dr. Jones was also there when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot.
On November 24, 1963, two days after the President was killed, Dr. Jones was getting a haircut when the barber shop’s phone rang. It was Parkland letting Dr. Jones know that Lee Harvey Oswald had been shot while being transported by police and was on his way to the hospital.
Dr. Jones was also a part of the team that operated on him for more than hour.
One day he was trying to save the President’s life. Two days later, he was now trying to save the life of the man who allegedly assassinated him.
“I didn’t think about that at the time,” he told me, “He [Oswald] was just another patient.”
Today, Dr. Jones is still very active. Until recently, he was chairman of the Department of Surgery at Baylor University Medical Center, a position he held for 26 years.
He likes to play tennis and enjoys the symphony. You can see his face perk up a little when you ask him about ballroom dancing, a hobby he and his late wife enjoyed.
Dr. Jones still owns land in Harrison, Arkansas where he grew up. He was the son of a farmer who once saved 1,700 pennies to buy a Shetland pony when he was just 14 years old.
His amazing life story is also profiled in Baylor’s peer-reviewed journal, Baylor Proceedings.
Dr. Jones is now approaching 81, and on a recent car ride I asked him, “How long do you want to keep working at the hospital?”
“As long as Baylor wants to keep me around,” he said with a smile.