Longtime Las Vegas attorney Herbert Jones, a founding partner of the prominent Jones Vargas law firm, died Wednesday at home. He was 93.
“He was just an absolutely wonderful human being and one of the finest men ever to walk the streets of Las Vegas,” said partner Joe Brown, the firm’s president. “He was an outstanding lawyer and just a perfect gentleman at all times.”
Jones was born July 22, 1914, in Phillipsburg, Mo. He moved with his family to Las Vegas in 1931 and paid his way through college by holding several jobs during the construction of Hoover Dam.
He graduated from the University of Missouri in 1940 and served in the Army during World War II.
In a 2004 interview with the Review-Journal, he declined to discuss his wartime experiences, which entailed building beachheads on enemy territory for advancing U.S. forces.
“I did block it out,” he said.
After the war, Jones went back to school. He received his law degree from the University of Arizona in 1947 and was admitted to the Nevada bar the same year.
Jones worked as a Clark County deputy district attorney before entering private practice. He and his older brother, Clifford, formed the firm of Jones, Jones, Close, Bilbray and Kaufman in the late 1960s.
Brown said he had known Herbert Jones since 1968.
“We became dear friends; and one day when we were out duck hunting, he said, ‘We should be partners. We should be practicing law together.’ And I was thrilled,” Brown recalled.
They merged their law firms in 1973. Until Herbert Jones’ health began to fail about six months ago, he went to work every day, Brown said.
“He was my role model,” said Brown, who is 66.
He said Herbert Jones was a lifelong golfer and great outdoorsman.
During the 2004 interview, Herbert Jones said he kept going into the office because of his co-workers.
“The law, as far as I’m concerned, has two tools: the books and the people. I think the people are just as important as, or more so than, the books,” he explained.
In 2006, the Nevada Trial Lawyers Association, now called the Nevada Justice Association, gave Herbert Jones a lifetime achievement award.
Brown presented the award and still has a copy of the speech, in which he wrote: “For those of you who seek a model of gentlemanly conduct, humility, exemplary behavior and integrity — a lawyer’s lawyer, you will never honor a better man.”
In the 1960s, Herbert Jones represented most of the casinos operating in Las Vegas. He also was instrumental in founding the Bank of Las Vegas, which became Valley Bank of Nevada and later was purchased by Bank of America.
He was the youngest of three siblings.
The oldest was Florence Lee Jones Cahlan, who became the first prominent female journalist in Nevada. She died in 1985 at age 75.
Clifford Jones became a lieutenant governor of Nevada and eventually had business interests throughout the world, including casinos in Cuba, Ecuador and Lebanon. He died in 2001 at 89.
Herbert Jones never ran for office, though he did accept an appointment to the state Legislature in 1987 to fill the Senate seat of Jim Bilbray, who had been elected to Congress.
Jones was active for many years in Democratic circles, for a time as a national committee member.
His first wife, Sara Jane “Sassy,” and a daughter, Blake Benton Jones Holyoak, died previously.
He is survived by his wife, Janice, and four sons, Steven, Bart, Randall and Mark, and a stepson, Brian Sorensen. Randall and Mark both practice law in Las Vegas.
Brown said the burial will be private, but friends and colleagues are invited to attend a celebration of Herbert Jones’ life from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday at the Las Vegas Country Club, where he lived.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 383-0264.