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Officer, 61, Guarded Campus for Decades

By Margaret W. Ho, Crimson Staff Writer

Robert A. Jones, a longtime veteran of the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD), died of colon cancer on June 10. He was 61.

After a brief stint at Radcliffe College as a cook, and later as a security guard, Jones joined the police department at Harvard in 1963, rising to the position of sergeant in the late 1970s, family members said.

“He managed to balance in his life the times of pleasure and joy...and the tough work of being a policeman with such responsibility,” said Father Carney Gavin, who officiated at Jones’ memorial Mass and who worked closely with Jones during the 37 years he spent at HUPD before his retirement in 2000.

Family and colleagues remember the Boston native for his sense of humor.

“He was part of the first undercover squad that Harvard had back at the Medical School in the ’70s,” his son Barry V. Jones said.

Dubbed the “Sneaker Squad,” a reference to their shoe choice, the group was disguised as doctors, Jones said.

“Goldstein was [my father’s] alias,” he said.

“Dad’s dark Irish. Goldstein didn’t quite fit,” he added, noting that his father enjoyed the pseudonym’s apparent incongruity.

But Jones’ career wasn’t just limited to the “Sneaker Squad” or his position as watch commander of the Harvard Medical School area. He also acted as a bodyguard to several dignitaries, including recently-deceased Loeb University professor emeritus Archibald Cox ’34 while he acted as special prosecutor in the Watergate scandal, Britain’s Prince Charles, members of the Kennedy family and presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.

And Jones often spoke fondly of the Pusey family, whom he guarded when then-University President Nathan M. Pusey ’28 was living at 17 Quincy Street.

“[Mrs. Pusey] always had him come in for a cup of tea,” said Kathy Jones, the retired officer’s wife of 31 years. “They didn’t treat him like hired help.”

Even as a “loyal member of the University family,” Jones made sure that he “spent meaningful time with the important people in his life,” Gavin said.

Well into his position as a police officer, Jones took on the role of innkeeper as well.

Both during and after his time at HUPD, Jones helped run the Harbor Inn and Cove House in Kennebunkport, Maine, which he and his wife owned and where he often regaled guests with anecdotes from his days at Harvard.

While he frequently spoke of the spring 1969 campus unrest, including the student takeover of University Hall, Jones also recounted several close calls, one of which had him leave the Center for International Affairs (CFIA) “moments just before the building exploded,” Kathy Jones said.

At the time, the CFIA found itself the target of radical groups critical of the center’s role in American foreign policy.

And another popular story centered on Alexander Solzhenitsyn, winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize in literature and one of many luminaries to visit Harvard.

“In the debriefing, they mentioned that he didn’t speak much English,” Barry Jones said. “He kept on remembering to watch [Solzhenitsyn’s] head, and forgot about his leg” while Solzhenitsyn was entering a car,

“Bob closed the door on his leg, and Solzhenitsyn yelled ‘you son of a bitch,’” Kathy said with a chuckle. “So he did know some English phrases.”

Jones’ death fell on Commencement day, which was particularly “ironic,” his wife said, as he had worked Commencement for around 25 years.

“A lot of people would say, where’s the sergeant that used to be here?” she said.

Colleagues also paid tribute to the breadth of Jones’ work during his time at the university.

“Sergeant Robert Jones served the students, faculty and staff of Harvard University for over thirty years with distinction,” said HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano.

Painting Jones as a man who had “a very kindly face [and] a wonderful mustache” with a perpetual “twinkle in his eye,” Gavin highlighted the sergeant’s wisdom.

“He did his job wonderfully because he lived his life wonderfully,” Gavin said.

Jones is survived by his wife and son, his brothers Lauress M. Jones Jr. and John W. Jones as well as many nieces and nephews.

—Staff writer Margaret W. Ho can be reached at mwho@fas.harvard.edu.

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