“Mr. Ebony” Tom Jones, who had been in poor health for years, died on Saturday, March 6, 2017, at age 77. Many wrestling friends took to social media to remember their colleague, a skilled in-ring wrestler who competed in rings across North America in the 1960s and 1970s.
Jones, confined to a retirement home in Amarillo, Texas, and battling Alzheimer’s, had a rough last few years.
“Tom Jones was a great teacher and mentor to many and a great competitor and friend to those who were blessed to work with and know him,” wrote veteran referee James Beard. “He’s had a rough last few years and now he is at peace. God Bless my friend. See you on the other side.”
His son, Cody Jones, who is also a pro wrestler, confirmed his father’s passing on March 4 in a post on Sunday. “Our father passed away yesterday. Thank for everyone who has reached out to us and has us in their thoughts and prayers. Also, thank you to those who have respected our privacy during this hard time. Service details are pending and will be posted.”
Jones was born George Thompson in Savannah, Georgia on October 22, 1939. (Not to be confused with Tom “The Emperor” Jones, who was a football player turned wrestler.)
Much of his career, including an interview done with him by this writer before all the memory issues, is detailed in an interview from 2013: Tom Jones, suffering from dementia, needs help.
Part of the goal with the article was to draw attention to Jones’ plight in the nursing home and the family’s need both for financial help but also for old friends to get in touch. On this writer’s end, a few emailed in thanks for sharing Tom Jones’ story.
Clem Green of Savannah, Georgia, was a family member who had lost track of uncle George Thompson. “The last time I saw my uncle was in the early 2000s when his mother, my grand mother was buried,” he wrote. “Because of your article, we know where we can find him.”
Sheryl Nelson too had lost track of her old friend. “We would go see him in [Oklahoma City] when he and Chief Frank Hill were partners. We would also drive to Tulsa to the fairgrounds for them to tape the show,” she wrote. “He surely had stories to tell … .that damn old van he use to drive. We laughed about that when I took him out to dinner one visit.”
Another email came in from Cory “TNT” Van Kleeck, who had been trained as a pro wrestler by Tom Jones starting in 1992. “Tom has a very special place in my heart and I know that countless others who had the privilege of knowing him from the business, particularly those who were fortunate enough to be trained by him, have only the best things to say about Tom,” wrote Van Kleeck. “An absolute gentleman in all respects and an honest sincere person which isn’t the most common group of traits in wrestling sometimes!”
Veteran wrestler and trainer Les Thatcher shared his thoughts after hearing of Jones’ passing: “I first met Tom Jones over 50 years ago when we were both working for the Indianapolis office. A sweetheart of a person, a talented in ring worker, friend, teacher. So saddened to hear this morning of his passing. Those of us touched by Tom’s friendship are better for it. My prayers go out to his many friends & family. Go with God my friend & take along all the love & respect you have earned here on earth. RIP.”
Steven Jones [no relation], a wrestler as Dexter Hardaway turned promoter in Tulsa, Oklahoma — where Tom Jones lived for years — posted a particularly poignant piece on Facebook:
I met Tom when I was 18 years old. I earned his respect without even realizing it, until he asked me to give his son Cody his first match. I was honored to do so as it was special to me. I had many a conversation with this man.
There was not one person he didn’t know. During a few WWE shots one just happened to take place in OKC. I saw Tom and a couple friends up the ramp and they asked to come down. I went and met them, took them backstage and Tom whispered “watch this” right before he bear hugged Gerald Brisco. Brisco, even at his age would have killed someone like me for doing that. Normally you need a backstage pass in order to not get harassed at the E. Not Tom he just strolled right through saying hello to all.
Thinking about TJ brings back so many good memories and long conversations that I took for granted then. And talk about a strong SOB. His grip just like Harley’s for an old man is insane. When I got the privilege to train at Harley’s for a bit, Tom said to tell him hello and “show him the shooter shake” well that was a mistake and Harley about bent my damn thumb in half. Tom always had a good laugh at that, always asking how’s your thumb.
One thing is for sure TJ will be missed by a lot of people, but he cared about everyone genuinely. RIP sir I hope to see you again one day.
No doubt there are plenty of other Tom Jones stories out there being shared and that will be shared in the days to come.
The funeral service will be on March 25th at 10 a.m. at Cox Funeral Home at 4180 Canyon Dr., Amarillo, Texas.