Elmer A. "Peck" Jones, the longtime Baltimore City Council clerk who had been a Democratic stalwart throughout his life, died Sunday of complications from kidney failure at Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie. He was 101.
"I knew Mr. Jones when I was in the City Council, and he was such a gentleman. He was the salt of the earth and cared deeply for his city," said Gov. Martin J. O'Malley, who added, "He was never out sick, and I always thought of him as the Cal Ripken of City Hall."
"Elmer 'Peck' Jones served the Baltimore City Council for 27 years with dignity and diligence. He was dedicated to the city and especially to the City Council," said Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke. "He brought smiles to our faces and he always made sure our papers were in order."
The son of Wilbur Jones, who worked in the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad's Mount Clare Shops, and Cathrin Jones, a homemaker, Elmer Alexander Jones was born in Baltimore and raised on Ramsay Street in West Baltimore.
"He got the nickname of 'Peck' from 'Peck's Bad Boy.' He was a pistol," said his son, Elmer C. Jones of Pasadena.
After graduating from Fourteen Holy Martyrs parochial school, he began his career as chauffeur for Delivery of Baltimore Inc., where he worked for 45 years before retiring in 1976.
During World War II, Mr. Jones worked for Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point shipyard, where he helped build Liberty ships.
Active in Democratic politics all his life, Mr. Jones served as treasurer and vice president of the 19th Ward Democratic Club. In 1976, he was appointed journal clerk of the Baltimore City Council, a position he held until he was named chief clerk in 1989.
He retired in the late 1990s, family members said, but continued to serve as emeritus clerk.
"He took care and pride in his work and in working with council members, and he always had the pulse of the council," said Mr. O'Malley. "He was a very shrewd observer and an expert in reading history and was an expert in reading people."
In addition to Ms. Clarke, some of the City Council presidents Mr. Jones served during his tenure included Walter S. Orlinsky, Clarence H. "Du" Burns, Francis X. Gallagher and Sheila Dixon.
"He mentored a number of us with humility and respect," said Mr. O'Malley. "And he let you know when you over-calibrated your rhetoric and that it was over the top, and with a wink and a nod, he'd let you know at other times that you were on the right track and to stick to your guns."
"I remember him as a genuinely nice gent who knew everyone's name and was warm and helpful to all of us," said Sandra A. Banisky, who covered City Hall as a young reporter and is The Baltimore Sun's former deputy managing editor for news.
"He was just one of those people who treated everybody as an equal whether you were the City Council president, a reporter or someone who wandered into a council meeting for the first time. He treated them as if he knew them," said Ms. Banisky.
"He was a lovely, lovely man who was widely beloved. He was a man who knew the what and where of politics, the City Council and human relations," said Ms. Clarke. "He was out of the old-school where things happened without a lot of ruckus. When Peck was around, you knew everything was all right."
"He was such an orderly and well-organized man who was always impeccably dressed and a complete gentleman," said Maryland District Judge Timothy D. Murphy, who served as a City Council member from 1982 to 1995 and later was elected to the House of Delegates.
"The clerk's job was a patronage job that he turned into a real job, and when it was time for him to retire, they kept him on as emeritus clerk," recalled Judge Murphy. "He was the man who knew how the various bills were handled."
Mr. Jones, a longtime resident of the 400 block of S. Stricker St., was a member for many years of the Stonewall Democratic Club, where he served on its board and chaired its nominations committee.
"Peck was so respected universally in the local political community," said Judge Murphy.
His son said his father did not follow any particular health regimen in order to reach centenarian status.
"He was a good eater and never smoked. He belonged to Democratic clubs, which meant he drank a couple of beers," his son said, laughing.
Several weeks ago, Mr. Jones began to feel unwell, and spoke to his daughter.
"He said, 'I don't know if I'm sick or if you're supposed to feel this way at my age. I'd ask somebody, but I don't know anyone else who's 101,' " said his daughter, Patricia "Patsy" Maize of Glen Burnie.
"He drove until he was 93, and at 101 he was still raising hell, and was still sharp as a whip," his daughter said.
A resident of Glen Burnie for the last 14 years, Mr. Jones enjoyed crabbing, fishing and playing pinochle with his friends every Monday evening in a back room of an Arbutus bar. He was also an Orioles, Baltimore Colts and Ravens fan.
His wife of 56 years, the former Cleo V. Horseman, died in 1992.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the McCully-Polyniak Funeral Home, 3204 Mountain Road, Pasadena.
In addition to his son and daughter, Mr. Jones is survived by another son, David J. Jones of Pasadena; nine grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren.
An earlier version of this obituary said that Sandra A. Banisky had retired as The Baltimore Sun’s former deputy managing editor for news. In fact, she did not retire but left the newspaper to take another full-time job. The Sun regrets the error.
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