Chimes Continue Late Founder's Legacy
Published: Friday, January 25, 2013
Updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013 21:01
As the clock on Healy Tower struck midnight Thursday night, the Georgetown Chimes performed their weekly recital in Dahlgren Quad, the newest of Georgetown’s oldest a cappella group’s long list of traditions.
Frank Jones (LAW ’48) founded the all-male Chimes when he came to Georgetown in 1946. Sixty-seven years and 240 Chimes members later, the foundation that Jones established continues to grow. Jones passed away Dec. 22 at the age of 92, and though there have been changes from the original four-member barbershop quartet, traditions Jones started and songs he added to the Chimes’ repertoire continue to be sung by the 14 active Chimes.
A Founder’s Legacy
“When you read about his story, he didn’t just arbitrarily create an a cappella group,” Tim Lyons (COL ’15), the newest Chimes member, said. “He really wanted to start this group and he worked for years and years at it. Even well after graduating, he worked to make sure that the group was going to be sustainable.”
“Baby Chime” Lyons had to learn Jones’ story before he could gain his new title as Chime #240.
Jones, Chime #1, was quarterback of the Yale football team from 1939 to 1941, but before he could graduate, he was drafted into the army to fight in World War II. Jones served from 1941 to 1945 and completed his undergraduate degree in the military while earning the rank of captain fighting against the Japanese in New Guinea.
Jones left the military in March of 1946 and wanted to go to law school. Though he wanted to go to Yale Law, he would not have been able to play football there because of the university’s rules.
“He picked Georgetown because Georgetown would allow you to play for one year,” Kevin O’Brien (COL ’65), Chime #57 and Jones’ best friend, said.
When he enrolled, Georgetown Law School’s rules changed, so he was no longer permitted to play football. Nevertheless, Jones relied on his musical background, which consisted of singing with his father and uncles as a boy, and started an a cappella group.
“While he was in the army, he told me he formulated the plan to create the Chimes,” O’Brien said. “The Chimes — I think that’s his great legacy. I think every time The Chimes sing for people and they clap, there is clapping for [Jones] in it. That’s what he created; he nurtured it.”
Two years ago, Jones returned to Georgetown and performed with The Chimes in Gaston Hall at the Cherry Tree Massacre, the largest a cappella festival on the East Coast. Michael Luckey (COL ’13), Chimes Ephus, or elected leader, and Chime #226, had the opportunity to sing with Jones when he visited.
“The guy was 90 years old and had just the greatest voice,” Luckey said. “We went back to the house and sang all these other songs, and he was just pulling songs left and right — songs I had never heard, songs I didn’t know he would have ever known. The man was like an encyclopedia of songs.”
Jones’ encyclopedia of songs included the fight song of nearly every college in the United States. At a Chimes reunion at a restaurant in Palm Desert, Calif., a group of people asked Chimes alumni to sing the Georgetown fight song, O’Brien recalled.
“Then someone at the table said, ‘You guys wouldn’t happen to know the University of Illinois fight song?’” O’Brien said. “And [Jones] said, ‘Sure, I know it.’ And he sang all four verses. And the fellow from Illinois started crying; he actually started crying.”
The man from Illinois happened to own one of the great wine collections in California and gave Jones and the Chimes two bottles he had in his car.
“As we were drinking it, [Jones] said, ‘See? There is an advantage to being a Georgetown Chime,’” O’Brien said.
Though Jones got the wine, he did not drink.
“He didn’t drink, but he was insane,” Chimes President George Peacock (COL ’84), Chime #118, said. “[Jones was] spontaneous, surprising, uninhibited and always cheery and kind. It was an interesting mix. You don’t always find that in people.”
Every Chime described Jones as unconventional and fun loving.
“I would describe him as unique chaos,” O’Brien said. “It was just one fun thing after another. He was just incredibly brilliant, yet he was eccentric.”
Tyler Holl (COL ’13), Chime #234, sang with Jones at the 2011 Cherry Tree Massacre as a neophyte, or Chime-in-training.
“He was just so fun-loving. He was always looking for a way to make people smile and laugh and make everyone feel included,” Holl said. “He brought so many different types of people together because of this group, and I think that really showed in his character. He loved cracking jokes and telling stories.”
Luckey said that he admired Jones and considered him a role model.
“I’ve only met this guy twice, but he has had such a profound impact on my life that when I met him. It was like meeting a childhood hero,” Luckey said. “The man was incredible. When I first met him, he was 90 years old and I was 19, but he was an immediate friend.”
Jones was a law professor at the University of Southern California for 35 years, and his dichotomy between his eccentricity and academic life made him dynamic and complex person, according to O’Brien.
“He was an incredible contrast. You could sit and sing a song with him, then he would do something crazy like he would get up and put ketchup on his throat,” O’Brien said. “He would lean out into the restaurant with the ketchup on his throat and he’d yell, ‘For God’s sakes, don’t order the swordfish.’ Then he’d come back to the table and could talk about some legal doctrine that was very difficult to understand.”