James Beverly (J.B.) Jones, 93, died Wednesday, May 17, 2017. He will be remembered as a “J.B.-of-all-trades”: a family man, mechanical engineer, avid tennis player, musician, teacher, and mentor. J.B. embodied scientific rigor and professionalism but was also a great storyteller and practical joker.
J.B. was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to Alonzo Lewis Jones and Bertha Crockett Jones. He earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from VPI in 1944 (Class of ’45) where he was a respected member of the Cadet Corps. While there, J.B. met Jane Hardcastle, an aeronautical engineering student who would become his wife of 64 years. Jane passed away in 2009.
After graduating, J.B. worked for the U.S. War Department until the end of World War II. He then served on the faculty at Purdue University, where he received his PhD in 1951. During his time at Purdue, J.B. also worked for the General Electric Company, the Babcock and Wilcox Company, and General Motors Corporation. He was a National Science Faculty Fellow at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
In 1964, T. Marshall Hahn, then-president of VPI, persuaded J.B. to move back to Blacksburg where he served as Department Head of Mechanical Engineering for 19 years. Students knew him as a tough but fair professor with a profound dedication to their success. J.B.’s students would go on to do things as varied as walking on the moon and becoming university presidents.
J.B. co-authored three books on engineering thermodynamics and was the recipient of university-wide outstanding teacher awards at both Purdue and Virginia Tech. He served as the Vice President of Education for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
J.B.’s devotion to education didn’t slow down upon his retirement. He co-chaired the National Research Council Committee of Engineering Design. In 1991, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers awarded J.B. the James H. Potter Gold Medal for contributions in thermodynamics. In 2008, he received the William H. Ruffner Medal Award for his services to Virginia Tech, and in 2014, J.B. was inducted into the Academy of Engineering Excellence.
J.B. also spent decades serving the greater Blacksburg community as a Rotarian and in many other roles. An accomplished musician, J.B. was often heard playing clarinet and saxophone for the Blacksburg German Band and the Blacksburg Community Band.
J.B. is survived by his daughter, Ellen Jones-Walker; his son, Warren Jones; his grandchildren, Kelly Hardcastle Jones and Reilly James Jones; and his great granddaughter, June Hardcastle Robinson Jones.
J.B.’s family would like to express their sincere appreciation to the caring and professional staff of the Showalter Center and the Kroontje Health Care Center at Warm Hearth and the ICU and hospice staff at Lewis-Gale Hospital Montgomery.
A memorial service will be held June 10, 2017 at 2 p.m. at McCoy Funeral Home in Blacksburg. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to an organization of your choice. Two of J.B.’s favorites were the Montgomery County Humane Society and Saint Francis Service Dogs.