Jones, John Marvin (1882–1976)

By: Irvin May

Type: Biography

Published: October 1, 1995

Updated: June 11, 2020

Marvin Jones, congressman and judge, son of Horace and Theodocia (Hawkins) Jones, was born at Valley View, Cooke County, Texas, on February 26, 1882. He attended Elm Grove School in the same county and a public school in Miami, Texas, before graduating from Southwestern University with a B.A. in 1905 and the University of Texas with an LL.B. in 1908. He then practiced law in Amarillo with Leonidas Barrett and Ernest Miller until defeating John Hall Stephens in the election of 1916 for a United States congressional seat. He represented the Thirteenth District as a Democrat. As a protégé of John Nance Garner and close friend of Samuel T. Rayburn and Hatton W. Sumners, Jones became a member of the House Agriculture Committee in 1921. There he crusaded unsuccessfully for the export debenture plan. He became chairman in 1930 and remained in that post until he resigned ten years later to become an associate justice of the United States Court of Claims. In agricultural legislation Jones generally specialized in farm finance that cut across commodity interests. He wanted low-interest loans and mortgages, soil conservation, farm subsidies, agricultural research, and new markets for farm products. As a result he helped found the Farm Credit Administration and the Federal Farm Mortgage Corporation. Additionally, he played important roles in the Jones-Connally Act; the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act; Section 32 of the Agricultural Adjustments Act of 1935, the first guaranteed annual appropriation for agriculture in United States history; the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenancy Act; and the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938. During the Great Depression Jones ardently supported the construction of public buildings and urged the location of federal agencies in Amarillo. As a practical politician he supervised the passage of more significant agricultural legislation than any previous House agriculture chairman.

After 1940 Jones served on the United States Court of Claims. He took a leave of absence from June 29, 1943, to June 30, 1945, and during these two years he brought stability to the strife-torn War Food Administration by leadership that was principled and centered on public service rather than bureaucratic. He championed increased production of food and fibers, and the WFA, aided by favorable weather, was reasonably successful in meeting its production goals during World War II. He returned to the court, became chief judge in 1947, and served until 1964. In his opinions he refrained from judicial activism and tried to balance law, congressional intent, and his own concept of quality, which was deeply rooted in his Texas heritage. As a judicial administrator he helped reestablish the Court of Claims as a constitutional court and supervised the construction of a new courthouse. From 1964 until his death he served as senior judge. Jones was a devout Methodist who contributed generously to religious causes and provided scholarships at many Texas universities. He died in Amarillo on March 4, 1976.

Marvin Jones Papers, Irvin M. May Collection, Texas A&M University Archives, College Station. Irvin M. May, Jr., Marvin Jones: The Public Life of an Agrarian Advocate (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1980). Joseph M. Ray, ed., Marvin Jones Memoirs (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1973).


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Politics and Government
  • Judges

Time Periods:

  • Great Depression

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Irvin May, “Jones, John Marvin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 17, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 1, 1995
June 11, 2020