Leroy Jones is a twenty-year political veteran. The North Carolina Central University and Howard University graduate has had the unique opportunity to work in both chambers of Congress as well as serve as a political appointee in President Bill Clinton’s White House.
Despite his prestigious positions and successful career, the nationally syndicated radio host of The PoliticalJones Show and The PoliticalJones Report holds as his main interest a desire to provide “Commentary for the Common Folk.” He credits his humility, his straight-talk and his commitment to informing the community to his late mother, Mayo Louise Jones. In a conversation with EBONY, Mr. Jones explained why:
LEROY JONES, JR.: When I first started the 30-minute commentary show, The PoliticalJones Report with Leroy Jones, Jr. and had to come up with a tag line, I thought about my life and who I am at my core and why. I’m a product of Lenoir, North Carolina. People act surprised that I haven’t lost my accent or become “L. Jones” instead of Leroy, but that’s just not who I am.
My mother raised me to give the square deal and tell the truth about what’s going on. I came from “common folk,” and that’s who I want to stay true to. My tagline, “Commentary for the Common Folk,” is one of love and respect for real people and real talk. It’s a tribute to all those folks that made me: my parents, my uncles, and my friends’ fathers in the neighborhood who all helped to raise me. I do it for them.
EBONY: And you’ve been very successful in engaging the Black community in dialogue on matters of political interest. What’s the next step?
I think that we have to really focus on making people get out to vote. It’s of huge importance that the community feels they have power to make a difference. Make sure now you’re registered to vote so that when election time comes around, you’ll have your things in order. Be informed about what’s going on not just on the federal level but in your state and local governments.
I think we have a unique opportunity to make some changes in the lives of our people. And that’s why I try to educate our community through the show and have celebrity guests, doctors, lawyers, experts on who can talk about what’s happening in America. If you have folks who are voting and staying a part of the process and holding elected officials accountable, who knows what would happen when laws like “Stand Your Ground” come up. There could be an organized group of people who are saying, “no, we’re going to stop that from becoming a law.” So I’m really trying to encourage people to get involved on a state and local level because they can have much more of a profound impact on laws that way. If 100 people show up to a city council meeting, they’re going to be paid attention to.
EBONY: But now it seems like we’ve got the U.S. Supreme Court working against us too. Even if we have representatives who create laws that we like, like the McCain-Feingold Act limiting the amount of money corporations can pour into elections, you’ve got the Supreme Court that can strike those laws down and declare that corporations are people who should be able to contribute millions of dollars into the campaigns of their choice.
LJ: True, but who confirms Supreme Court judges? Senators that we vote for. We have a lot more power than we take advantage of and we just have to be paying attention. How many people of color are in the Senate? None. That needs to change.
EBONY: You bring a really unique perspective to your show because you’ve worked in both houses of Congress and in the White House. What role do those experiences play in your ability to break down for the people what’s really going on in Washington?
LJ: Because of all of the opportunities I’ve had on the inside in Washington over these twenty-plus years, I know the real deal. “Game recognize game,” as they say, and I’ve learned that it’s not what you see and hear that you’ve got to be worried about, it’s what you don’t see or hear. Behind the scenes, I’ve seen some very interesting things and it definitely shapes my perspective, but I’m only going to go into detail about that in my book, whenever I write it!
EBONY: So you’re holding on to your secrets about President Clinton?
LJ: (Laughs) No, I couldn’t tell you a thing! I’m not going to act like I was in the inner circle up there. I was a political appointee and I can only say I was around and saw certain things and it will be an interesting part of my book!
EBONY: Who do you think will be the next political game-changers?
LJ: Black women, no doubt about it. I’ve always said that the way Black women go is how the Black community goes. They’ve always been the backbone even if they don’t get the credit. Black women have the ability to adapt and would be great spokespeople for the main issues that affect our community, from health care to the economy. We need sisters’ voices.
I would love to see more Black women involved in the political process and running for office. It would change the political dynamic. And in the age of Michelle Obama, I think that’s coming. I’ve been astounded by the optimism I’m feeling for Black women right now and it is something I can tell my beautiful 14-year-old daughter that she really can do anything and be anything. And I think that’s a part of the journey I’ve been on as I created The Political Jones Show, to not only educate but to provide a platform for previously disengaged people to become more involved.
EBONY: Did you always plan to work in radio at some point in your career?
LJ: I never saw myself as being on a radio show, actually. I’ve been truly blessed and truly favored. When I started PoliticalJones.com, I went through a lot of uncertainty and I had to get on my knees and pray to God. I said, “I don’t know what I’m doing, but I know you’ve always been there for me.”
Growing up in the South in segregation, when I would tell my mama what I’d seen, she would tell me that when I grow up, I should fight to get rid of the injustice. That stuck with me for many years, so I ended up going to law school. But while I was there, I got bit by the political bug and worked on the Hill through law school and after graduation and beyond.
Even when I was young, my mother made it her business to explain politics and society to me and break it down in a way that I would understand. So no matter how I ended up doing it, I wanted to be sure I was true to that.
I didn’t ask for this [radio show] specifically, I prayed about it and doors opened up for me to do this. I had to listen and take the leap of faith. I just had to say, Lord, you take me in the direction you want to me to go.” Every decision I’ve made, it was all based on faith. Some stuff has worked out and some hasn’t. But I know I’m doing what He wants me to do. Am I perfect? Absolutely not. Am I a sinner? Just like everything else. I’m just a vessel and I just try to let Him lead me and trust Him and say, “God, You didn’t bring me this far to fail.”
EBONY: At what point in your spiritual journey did you get to that level of peace and ability to completely relinquish control and allow yourself to be led?
LJ: In 1976, they diagnosed my mother with sarcoidosis, the same disease that killed Bernie Mac. They gave my mother 6 months to live. But she just kept right on going. She said, “I’ve got two babies to raise.” At the time, my sister was 6 and I was 12. And my mother didn’t die until 20 years later.
My father only once heard me in a heated conversation with my mother. He pulled me aside and was very upset and said, “I’ve never heard you talk to your mother like that.” But that was the night she told me she was going to die right before she died. I didn’t want to believe it. I was fighting so hard for her but she was just at peace with it. She said, “Baby, you’re gonna have some ups and downs, but I don’t worry about you no more.” She told me she loved me and she was proud of me and to let the Lord lead me.
So that to me is why I’m on the path that I’m on. That’s why I can be at peace because He never left my mother and He’s never left me.
EBONY: You’ve worked for the President of the United States, you’ve worked in Congress, you’re a hit radio host and a proud father. What do you hope your legacy will be?
LJ: I hope people remember me as someone who told it to them like I knew it, that I informed them and that I was a fair guy. More important, I hope I’m remembered as a good father to my kids, a good brother to my sister, a good friend and a vessel of God. I haven’t been perfect, but in my heart I tried to do the right thing every time.
But I am a reflection of my mama and Leroy Jones, Sr. My father taught me strength and my mother taught me compassion. So, if I’m seen as a good man, then my parents raised me right. As Mother‘s Day comes up, [being on EBONY.com] is like the greatest Mother’s Day gift because she loved EBONY. My first reaction when I found out I was going to be interviewed was, “I’ve got to call my mama!” She would’ve been so proud. But both of my parents were able to tell me that they are proud of me as a man and who I’ve become and nothing could make me feel as good as knowing that.
You can catch-up with Leroy Jones every week on The PoliticalJones Show and The PoliticalJones Report, available on-air or 24/7 on PoliticalJones.com.