Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Services Friday for Law Professor, Television ‘Judge’ Jones
By a MetNews Staff Writer
UCLA Law Professor Edgar Allan Jones Jr., who died Friday at age 92, is seen presiding over “Day in Court,” on which he appeared from 1958 to 1964.
Services will be held in Pacific Palisades Friday for longtime UCLA law professor and onetime television “judge” Edgar Allan Jones Jr.
Jones, who became a national celebrity more than a half-century ago portraying a judge in television shows based on dramatized versions of courtroom proceedings, died Friday in Santa Monica, family members said. He was 92.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., he attended Wesleyan College, where he served as editor in chief of The Wesleyan Argus and graduated in 1941. When World War II broke out, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and served in the Pacific.
Treated over several years in military hospitals for bilateral pulmonary tuberculosis, he left the service in August 1945 and married Helen Callaghan, who survives him, the following month.
The couple moved to Charlottesville, Va., where Jones attended the University of Virginia Law School using his veteran’s benefits. He was the founding editor of the Virginia Law Weekly.
Following graduation, he joined the faculty of the new law school at UCLA in 1951, where he taught torts, labor law and labor arbitration and authored a number of law review articles before retirement in 1991.
He was also a prolific labor arbitrator, issuing over 1,200 awards between 1953 and last year. He was admitted to the National Academy of Arbitrators in 1960 and was its president in 1980.
In 1958, Jones—who had no background in theater—was selected over eight professional actors to portray a judge in the local television program “Traffic Court,” replacing then-Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge Evelle Younger, who later became state attorney general.
The program became part of ABC’s national schedule within months, and led to two more national programs featuring Jones—“Day in Court,” which ran weekdays, with Jones doing three of the five episodes each week, and the weekly nighttime “Accused.”
Between 1958 and 1964 Jones appeared in more than 2,000 episodes of the three shows. “Day in Court” was for a time the highest-rated live television show, estimated to have been seen by over 20 million viewers each week, but Jones left the show in 1964.
Jones’ shows featured real lawyers, with the parties and witnesses portrayed by actors. One of the attorneys who appeared was John Moriarity, a former student of Jones who now practices in Woodland Hills and remained friends with Jones for many years.
“I [portrayed] the city attorney on one of his shows and besides that he gave me an A” in legal writing and agency, the two classes he took from Jones, Moriarity recalled yesterday. “I loved Ted,” he commented, noting that he still has a photo of the two of them taken on the day of his graduation, and that he often brought Jones as his guest to legal community functions.
Jones explained in a 2003 MetNews interview that his career as a television judge ended because “there was no way I could have gone along” when network bosses decided to turn “Day in Court” into a soap opera, after “General Hospital,” had passed it in the ratings.
A UPI columnist, Rick Du Brow, commented Oct. 30, 1964:
“It is irritating to watch how ABC-TV’s respectable afternoon show, ‘Day in Court,’ has been turned into a soap opera in the current network trend toward serials.
“The major destruction of the program’s past concept was brought about this week with the beginning of a 10-part continuing story. Notable by his absence, because of his rejection of the new formula, is the man who used to be the star and the main reason for watching ‘Day in Court,’ Edgar Allan Jones Jr….
“ ‘Day in Court’ and television have lost a remarkable performer in Jones. There was no better ad libber in the television medium—and it was necessary, for the program’s authenticity, that he be accomplished in this skill. For it was Jones’ belief that though the shows and cases were thoroughly researched by top students, tones and innuendoes could give different impressions and lead to different conclusions when acted out—and to react naturally and with legal logic, he would often ad lib, even decisions, requiring sharp reactions from his casts.”
The show left the air four months later.
Jones’ other interests, his family said, included theology—he and his wife were devout Catholics—classical music, mosaic art, and writing. He penned two novels, “Mr. Arbitrator” and “Break a Leg, Professor” drawing upon and based loosely on his own life story.
He was also a fan of the UCLA football and basketball teams and played golf and baseball.
Besides his wife, he is survived by 11 children, 23 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren.
Friday’s funeral mass will be held 10 a.m. at Corpus Christi Catholic Church, 880 Toyopa Drive, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272 followed immediately by a reception. The family asked that any memorial donations be made to St. Andrew’s Abbey Monks of Valyermo ministry, Development Office, P.O. Box 40, Valyermo, CA 93563 or online at saintandrewsabbey.com.
Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company