If you ever visited him for advice, Jones would offer you something to drink and then sit you down in of his swivel chairs in front of a black, wooden counter. He would cross his legs slightly, fold his arms in front of him so his two thumbs could touch, while a big grin spread over his face as he listened. At the end of your session, he’d give you a big hug, look down at you and say, “Everything’s cool, baby, everything’s cool.”
Paul’s large stature may have been intimidating, but it did not stop people from gravitating toward him. Richmond city firefighters would put out nearby fires and afterwards come to talk to Paul who would be sitting on the ledge of his windowsill outside of the gym. “Growing up, he stopped on the street to greet homeless people when other people passed them by,” recalls his sister, Kimberly Jones. “People would be hesitant to hug him, but he embraced both men and women alike.”
“I had to remind Paul that I was the mama, because he would encourage me with words of wisdom,” says his mother, Thelma Jones. “I wouldn’t listen, but later I wish I had.” Laughing, she recalls how her son would call her and ask in his deep voice, “Oh, how’s my sexy mama?”
Paul Jones was an entrepreneur, always ready with a new business idea. “When he was in high school, he was a star football player, but he was also the disc jockey that people used for most of the after-game parties,” one family member says. “Paul recruited his friends to set up his music equipment at the designated place before he arrived. After he played the game, he would change out of his uniform and jump on his turntables to kick the party off.” Somehow, Jones managed to convince his parents to help him sell antique cars. And at marathons in Richmond, he would stand on the sidelines and yell, “Come and see me if you want to be trained; runners need training too!”
Jones’ latest venture was the Strong Man Contest held on Brown’s Island in August. At night, weeks before the contest, you could find Paul at the back of his gym, mixing the cement to fill the Atlas balls for the competition.
He was also a bouncer at Applebee’s, a chief special officer at one of Richmond’s alternative schools, Educare, and a former bodyguard to Lil’Kim and Boyz II Men. Last year he completed a voice-over class at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, with the intention of getting work on commercials, television and the movies.
Paul nicknamed himself the “Iron House Man” because he wanted something that sounded strong — he wanted people to know that they could rely on him. “Other children was playing with toys, my baby was trying to lift my television I had in the living room,” his mother recalls. She has pictures of him lifting automobiles and even two of his football teammates from Virginia Union University, one in each arm.
Perhaps Baby Paul knew that he would spend the rest of his life lifting people up.
Jones is survived by his two children, Paul and Latasha Walker-Jones, his mother, Thelma Jones, and his sister, Kimberly Jones. Funeral services were held Sept. 20. — Chaya Braxton<.i>
Style Weekly's mission is to provide smart, witty and tenacious coverage of Richmond. Our editorial team strives to reveal Richmond's true identity through unflinching journalism, incisive writing, thoughtful criticism, arresting photography and sophisticated presentation.
We make sense of the news; pursue those in power; explore the city's arts and culture; open windows on provocative ideas; and help readers know Richmond through its people. We give readers the information to make intelligent decisions.