Frank Jones, founder of the Chimes, Dies at 92
Jones, who had just returned from five years of military service in World War II to study law and play football, founded the Chimes after the school’s rule allowing graduate students to play college football changed. His step-daughter Carola Roufs said he would sing in the bathroom, which he said had “the best acoustics” and would ask others to join him to recruit “the best voices.” Roufs said he recruited the three other original members in bathrooms.
In his creation of the Chimes, Jones was influenced by his undergraduate experience at Yale University, where he encountered the Whiffenpoofs a cappella group and the Skull and Bones, according to Roufs’ son Anthony Garcia (LAW ’15). Though he was not able to join either group, his goal with the Chimes was to create a group where a love of music and “a common purpose created a bond among people that was stronger than any contention” that could arise, Garcia said. Kevin O’Brien (COL ’65), a Chimes member, said that he also found his love for music by singing recreationally with his large family. [O’Brien bears no relation to Georgetown’s Vice President for Mission and Ministry.]
Many close to him say Jones was by no means surprised that the Chimes grew so much in both size and stature. O’Brien attributes the success of the group to its selectivity and similarity to a fraternity. Once a student is accepted into the group they have a training period and then a waiting period before they can become full members. O’Brien said his time as a trainee and then neophyte, a sort of Chime-in-waiting, lasted about 15 months.
“I thought that was an interesting structure, and I thought that was one that helped prepare an individual for the pressure of singing,” said O’Brien. “That structure has been one of the primary reasons the chimes have become so successful.”
Founding the Chimes, though Jones referred to it as his greatest achievement, was not his only noteworthy accomplishment. After graduating from Georgetown with his Juris Doctor in 1948, he returned to the University and earned his Masters of Law in 1952, Roufs said. He then proceeded to defeat his criminal law professor in court to deport the mob boss Frank Costello while working with the Department of Justice, according to Timothy Naughton (MSB ’77), the prior president of the Chimes. Jones continued his law career as a professor at USC for about 35 years, Roufs said.
Jones’s successes at Georgetown and in his career in law are not the most extraordinary aspects of him that many remember. Chimes members and his family members all agree that his “unfailingly kind,” “eccentric,” “carefree,” and “zany,” personality was especially contagious and memorable.
O’Brien said that he would start yodeling, which he did well, wherever he wanted to (such as the Los Angeles Airport). He also said that at a restaurant, Jones ran to the bathroom with ketchup, put some on his neck, and stuck his head out of the door, yelling, “For God’s sake don’t order the swordfish!”
“Into his 70’s he was still doing handstands to shock and amuse people,” said Roufs. “He was known to make funny faces at the oddest times to make people laugh, or to walk around with a Styrofoam cup on the top of his head like a hat.”
She said that anyone who met him was touched by his personality and his love, loyalty, and devotion for both music and the Chimes. In October Jones stopped breathing and turned cold, but suddenly he coughed and “came back to life singing the Georgetown fight song,” according to Roufs. She said that Jones even said his wish was to be “stuffed and placed in the entryway of the Chimes house” after he died. Though the family would consider placing his urn in a case in the library, no plans are currently being made to do so.
All photos courtesy Carola Roufs. Third photo in set courtesy Anthony Garcia.