How John Paul Got His Jones, or, Willie Jones Leads North Carolina

How John Paul Got His Jones, or, Willie Jones Leads North Carolina

I realized I’ve been writing about Northern States a lot lately so I purposely chose to learn about someone from the South for this article.

Willie Jones was one of the most important politicians in Revolutionary North Carolina. He led his home through the transition from colony to State.

He also happened to give a certain ‘Father of the American Navy’ his surname.

The Surname

John Paul was on the run.

On multiple occasions, he had flogged men on board ships he was Captain of for lack of discipline.

This type of behavior was unacceptable, and he fled England to seek shelter in colonial Virginia. While he was there, so the story goes, he received great hospitality from his host, Willie Jones.

Seeking an alias anyway, he decided to take Willie’s last name.

The world come to know him as the Father of the American Navy…John Paul Jones.

Willie Jones

While John Paul Jones would find great fame in the history books, his namesake, Willie Jones, would not.

Willie (pronounced Wylie) was born into a wealthy North Carolina Family who sent him to Europe to receive an education.

Upon his return, Jones began a long career in government, representing his county in the Colonial Assembly. Furthermore, he became a member of the Royal Governor’s staff.

Willie was even named to His Majesty’s Council for North Carolina but surprised everyone when he turned the position down.

This was in 1774.

He had decided to rebel.


As one of his colony’s leading citizens, Willie Jones was elected to attend all of North Carolina’s Provincial Congresses, the shadow governments which popped up at the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

Willie also served as head of the Halifax Committee of Safety, in essence making him Governor of Georgia.

After independence, he became one of (if not THE) most powerful politicians in the State. Not only was he regularly elected to the North Carolina Assembly/Senate, but he also served for a year in the Continental Congress (who appointed him Commissioner of Indian Affairs for the Southern Colonies).

On top of this, Jones was one of the primary authors of the first State Constitution.


After the Revolutionary War was over, Willie Jones was elected to attend the Philadelphia Convention where the United States Constitution was written. Jones declined this invitation, however, and remained concerned with local politics.

When the Constitution was sent out for ratification, Jones hated it. He became North Carolina’s leading Anti-Federalist.

Willie’s efforts worked, North Carolina’s representatives voted to disband the ratifying convention without deciding if it was for or against the Constitution.

That’s right, North Carolina did not ratify the Constitution. Not at first. That State would not join the Union until November of 1789…eight months after George Washington took office as president.

When North Carolina DID finally accept the Constitution, Jones was not involved. Although he was elected to attend the new convention, he stayed home.

The new government was ratified and Willie Jones, once the most powerful politician in the State, retired from public life.

Want more Founders from North Carolina?

OK, here you go:

Richard Dobbs Spaight Overcomes Defeat

Timothy Bloodworth and His Futile Fight Against The Constitution

William Hooper Isn’t a Loyalist…Despite What You Heard

As usual, today’s Founder does not have a biography.

However, we did speak about John Paul Jones a good deal today so if you are interested in learning more about his fascinating life, check out ‘Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy.’

If you’d like a copy you can get one through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).

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