Thomas Hudson Jones

June 10, 2014 | Knowledge Corner

Every soldier who has guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier since the 1930s knows that Lorimer Rich and Thomas Hudson Jones were the two men chosen as the architect and the sculptor of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – their names appear on the first step on either side of their work, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We have admired the sculpture on the Tomb during the night time. We marvel at the detail of the three figures of Victory, Peace, and Valor as we wait for them to somehow come to life.

But what do we know of the man who literally had one chance to “get it right?”

Thomas Hudson Jones was born July 24, 1892 in Buffalo, New York. His father was an engraver by trade and encouraged his son to be a sculptor. He attended the Albright Art School in Buffalo, and at 19 he won the Rome Prize Fellowship for three years of study at the American Academy in Rome. The judges, however, decided that he was too young to go at the time.

For a time Jones worked in the studio of Daniel Chester French as French worked on the sculpture of the seated Lincoln for what would become the iconic figure in the Lincoln Memorial. Jones left French in 1917 and entered the US Army where he served in World War I. Following the war he took the fellowship in Rome.

He returned to the United States in 1922 to sculpt and teach at Columbia University in New York City. In 1934 he returned to Rome to serve as a Professor of Fine Arts at the academy. Jones designed the ornate 50-foot-high bronze doors for the New Library of Brooklyn. In Washington, D.C., he designed three reliefs of law givers for the House of Representatives chamber in the United States Capitol (1950) and the Statue of Christ in St. Matthews Church in Washington, D.C.

In 1929 the Fine Arts Commission selected Jones and Lorimer Rich from among 74 sculptors and architects to design the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It turned out that the selection of Rich and Jones was the easy part. Delays in the selection of marble took nearly two years as the 50-ton die block was brought to Arlington…only to be rejected for a flaw. This started the process all over. In the meantime, the east side of the Memorial Amphitheater was renovated to open the view from the plaza all the way to the Potomac and Washington, DC. By December 1931 a replacement block had been delivered and work resumed. On the last day of 1931, the cap was placed over the crypt and sealed into place. It was now that Jones went to work sculpting the three central figures and the six inverted memorial wreaths – a commission he finished in a matter of weeks. On April 9, 1932 the completed monument was open to the public.

For Jones, it was this work that made him well known in government circles.

At the request of the Government, Jones left his McDougal Alley studio in Greenwich Village, New York in 1944 and started work for the Institute of Heraldry in Washington, DC where he stayed after the war ended. It was here that Jones went on to design well over 40 US military service medals including the World War II Victory Medal, Airman’s Medal, Women’s Army Corps Service Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.

Other works of note are the ornate 50-foot-high bronze doors for the New Library of Brooklyn. In Washington, D.C., he designed three reliefs of law givers for the House of Representatives chamber in the United States Capitol (1950) and the Statue of Christ in St. Matthews Church in Washington, D.C.

Thomas Hudson Jones died on November 4, 1969 in Hyannis, Massachusetts. By many accounts, the place of his burial is unknown; for the Tomb Guards, he will never be forgotten.

Kevin Welker

Sources:
Poole, Robert M. On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery. New York: Walker and Company, 2009.

United States Army Insignia Home Page
http://usarmyinsigniahomepage.netii.net/armyhome.html

Thomas Hudson Jones — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Hudson_Jones

  1. George J. Schneider April 3, 2016

    As a young veteran of WW2, I worked in the Office of the QM General, Tempo “C” at Buzzards Point in Washington, DC next door to Ft. McNair, Thomas Hudson Jones worked in the next section of the building i worked. I often took a break and would wonder next door and talk to Mr, Jones and watch him work on a model of the revised amphitheater of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.He was a great man. (1949)
    George J. Schneider
    30 Hadley Road
    Framingham, MA. 01701

  2. Gabriel Ireton May 29, 2016

    In the early 1950s, I went to school with the son of the creator of the Tomb, I used to run through the Jones’ house in Georgetown D.C. and past the old man, shouting a hello and getting a good-natured wave from him — without even realizing at the time I was in the presence of such a great American, Thomas Hudson Jones.

  3. Melissa Coelho August 6, 2016

    Mr. George Schneider and Mr.. Gabriel Ireton, We ran across this website, my sister and I, as our mother just passed on Wednesday. Our grand father was an amazing man. He was not only incredibly talented but one of the kindest men we , I have ever known. We have many reminders of him and my grandmother, the best being our mother. He was not only a wonderful man, a great husband, a great father , but on of the most talented men I have ever met and had the privilege of knowing. We are morning our mother but we are in some ways incredibly happy, she will be with her mother and father, along with her one of her brothers and her sister. Thank you both for your king words they mean more than you could know at this incredibly hard time.

  4. Richard Edward Jones August 20, 2016

    Thomas Hudson Jones was the brother of my Grandfather. I was proud to find this great article. I visited the Tomb but at that time I had no idea that he played such a vital role im the design of this most important piece.

  5. Cyndi McClave January 16, 2017

    Melissa Coelho…..This is oldest daughter of Peter Jones. I would love to get in touch with you! Please contact me at cyndimcclave@gmail.com. Thank you~

  6. Melissa Coelho March 5, 2017

    Mr. Richard Edward Jones. I am unsure if you meet your cousin Anne Jones my mother. If you did it is with great sorrow to inform you of her passing August 3 2016. We have many documents and pictures of my grandfather, your uncle, and the family. Including pictures of him working on the Tomb.