Today, the 80-year-old Jones will mark his last full day at the sprawling U.S. Steel complex, where he began working on April 1, 1950, in one of the company’s nearby mines. He officially retired from U.S. Steel as a maintenance supervisor in 1982, but continued working at Fairfield Works over the past three decades as office manager at its tubular operations plant for Foerster Instruments, a German company that maintains the pipe mill equipment there.
Though officially retiring today, Jones says he will continue working at the plant part time three days a week for a couple of months to ease the transition to his replacement.
“My wife (Gloria) has been pushing for me to retire for a year, so I finally decided to just do it,” said Jones, who remains in good health and looks far younger than his age.
Tommie Nilsson, president of Foerster’s Pittsburgh U.S. headquarters, said Jones will be sorely missed.
“Gordon has been instrumental in our success,” Nilsson said. “He has a deep knowledge of our products, and can keep calm no matter the situation, and create a positive solution.”
Tim Hadaway of U.S. Steel’s Fairfield Tubular Operations division said he has gained a wealth of knowledge while working alongside Jones over the past 13 years.
“He’s provided tremendous support for maintaining our equipment, with less than 1 percent down time a year, which is pretty amazing,” Hadaway said. “He understands equipment and he understands people, and he’s been successful because he knows how those two work together.”
Jones deflects praise, saying it is the employees who work alongside and below him who made the difference.
“I’ve been blessed to work with some wonderful people,” Jones said.
Jones credits his longevity in the workplace to a combination of good health and having supportive employers and co-workers.
“I’ve been working since I was 14 years old and always enjoyed it,” he said.
Jones’ son, Birmingham lawyer and former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, said his father has always been a quiet, unassuming leader. He said his father instilled a strong work ethic in him and his younger sister, Terrie Jones Savage, who is a car saleswoman in Hartselle.
“Dad is a part of that great generation that had a combination of work ethic and loyalty to work and family so many people lack today,” said Doug Jones. “He has always been a quiet, unassuming guy, who did good work behind the scenes and never was out front.”
Gordon Jones grew up in Birmingham’s Wylam community as the youngest of five siblings, the son of a coal miner. At age 17 in 1948, he enlisted in the Navy, where he spent two years including a stint in Alaska in a Navy Air Patrol Squadron.
He was transferred to the special devices unit as an operational flight trainer in Texas in 1949 where he remained until his discharge in 1950. After moving back home in April 1950, Gordon Jones began working at U.S. Steel as a construction worker in a mine, then moving to the machine shop at the Fairfield plant.
Gordon Jones stayed at the tin mill as a union representative until 1967, when he was promoted to a salaried position as supervisor of electronic maintenance. He stayed in that position until retiring from U.S. Steel after three decades at age 51, then continuing to work at the plant for Foerster Instruments.
Jones’ 62 years at U.S. Steel will be celebrated with a party at the plant in his honor today. His advice to young people: Be level-headed and do the best you can every day on the job.
“If you make mistakes, fess up and do better next time. Learn from it,” Jones said. “Treat everybody like you want to be treated. Do that, and you’ll get by. That’s how I lasted so long.”