Neal Peden Jones, a native of Lucedale, MS, who rose to become an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, a trusted confidant to former U.S. Senate leader Trent Lott and a high-powered Washington, D.C. insider, passed on August 25, 2020. She was 90 years old.
Born to the late Edith Stanley and William O’Neal Cochran, Mrs. Jones grew up in Lucedale, MS and attended Mississippi State College for Women. Early in her career, she lived in Hattiesburg and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast where she was employed by Pat Harrison Waterways.
In 1973, newly elected U.S. Rep. Lott called Mrs. Jones to Washington to serve as his special assistant for Mississippi’s 5thHouse District. Three years later, she joined the Reagan campaign and served as administrative assistant to the political director of the Republican National Committee. From 1979 to1981, she served in several key posts, including administrative assistant to the national political director for President Reagan’s campaign, deputy treasurer for the campaign, and comptroller for the Reagan transition team. Under her leadership, the transition team was credited with completing its work under budget and ahead of schedule.
Mrs. Jones’ star continued to rise inside the Beltway. She served as director for administration for Republican National Committee from 1981 to 1984 and served on the administrative staff in the Department of Education. In May 1984, she received the call of her career when President Reagan appointed Mrs. Jones as the Administrative Assistant for the Agency for International Development. In this role, Mrs. Jones travelled the world to support the federal government’s efforts to improve the quality of life for people in the developing world.
After a 20-year career in Washington, D.C., Mrs. Jones retired toMadison, MS where she became active in local politics, served as Executive Director of the Mississippi Rural Development Council, and was a member of Chapel of the Cross Episcopal Church.
Her friends and family remember Mrs. Jones as a loving mother, sister and aunt, a compassionate friend, and a patriotic, civic-minded American. She was a talented painter and shared her artwork as a gift to the City of Lucedale, where her work graces the Mayor’s office.
Mrs. Jones is survived by her daughter and loving advocate for over 20 years, Stacy Ertle, of Albuquerque, N.M.; a Yazoo City native. She is survived by her son, James Peden, of Miami; her sister, Carolyn McGinnis of Houston; her nieces Shari Mcginnis of Sapphire, N.C. and Elizabeth Drinkard, of Houston; her nephew, Stanley Smallwood, of Eloy, Arizona.; a grand-nieceand grand-nephews; and stepdaughters Margaret Isganitis and Sallie Jones, both of New Orleans.
A private memorial service will be held at The Chapel of the Cross in Madison on August 29, 2020 at 11:00 am. In lieu of flowers, Mrs. Jones’ family asks that friends make donations to Living Services in Madison, in honor of Jayne Hust, who was her caregiver and loving friend or to The Chapel of the Cross. The family also wishes to thank the wonderful staff of St Catherine’s Village who lovingly providing comfort and care to Mrs. Jones in her final years and the Rector of The Chapel of the Cross, Rev. Ben G. Robertson, IV.