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Sam Jones Interview
February 18, 1989
Interviewed by Bob and Betsy Jones
Bob Jones: February 18, 1989. Sam Hickman Jones, formerly Sam Pendleton Jones. And we’re going to ask him to tell a few stories. First about what?
Betsy Jones: Fannie Mullins. Fannie Mullins in 1907.
Sam Jones: Fannie Mullins was a Negro woman that came to Brookhaven in 1907 from Cleveland, Ohio. She taught school in the public school, the Negro schools and also was a beautician. Some time after she came here she married a local colored man who was a brick mason and lived here the rest of her life. She used to go back to Cleveland every summer on her vacations and her friends up there would make fun of her because she lived down in Mississippi where she couldn’t vote and couldn’t even register. So she got tired of it. Once when she came back from Cleveland she went to my father’s office, he was the mayor at that time, and told him, “Judge Jones, I would like to register to vote.” And my father said, “Fanny, that’s just fine. I’m so glad, come on, I’ll take you down to the city clerk’s office.” Which he did and she was registered. And after that she was very happy. She never once exercised the right to vote, but she could always tell her friends back in Cleveland that she was registered in Brookhaven.
Bob Jones: About what year was that?
Sam Jones: My father was mayor in the late twenties, 1926 to ’28 or ’29, something like that.
Bob Jones: How rare was it for Negroes to be registered?
Sam Jones: It was very rare; I don’t know that there were very many at all. And they didn’t vote because of the fact of the poll tax, because it was too expensive. It cost two dollars to vote.
Betsy Jones: Did it cost that much to be registered?
Sam Jones: It didn’t cost anything to register, but to vote you had to pay your poll tax and you had to present a poll tax receipt. You paid it when you paid your taxes each year.
[male?] Sam, I understand that Fanny very much appreciated what your daddy did for her. How did she show her appreciation?
Sam Jones: Well, after Mildred and I were married, it was about in 1956, she came down to the house one day with a package she gave to Ruth to give to Mildred and me. She said she gave it because of what my father had done for her, registered her, and also she said it was because he always treated her like a lady.
Betsy Jones: What was in the package?
Sam Jones: The package contained a dish that she said belonged to her mother. And she gave it to use for a wedding present.
Betsy Jones: Why did Fanny Mullins come to Mississippi from Cleveland in the first place?
Sam Jones: I don’t know, except that a lot of colored people came down to teach in the schools here, just to help because they felt that they were needed.
Betsy Jones: Did they name a school after her?
Sam Jones: They named Fanny Mullins Grade School here after her.
Betsy Jones: Was she the principal?
Sam Jones: No, I think she had stopped teaching then, might have even been dead.
Betsy Jones: She must have been very respected…
Sam Jones: She was highly regarded by both, by the Negro and the white community.
Betsy Jones: Well, thank you, Sam.
Sam Jones: You’re very welcome. It was my pleasure.
Bob Jones: It was a pleasure to have you on this program.
Sam Jones: Thank you so much. I enjoyed being here so much.
[female]: Sam, what was the story you told about a black man named Burl Jackson in connection with your father, who we called “Papa,” my grandfather and your father, Judge Jones? What was that story?
Sam Jones: Burl Jackson and his wife lived about a block from us. They had a small lot in which they grew vegetables which they sold. He probably did other odd jobs. He was from Franklin County, which is just west of Brookhaven, at Meadville. He’d grown up out there but he came, I don’t know when he came, to Brookhaven but I always remembered him from my earliest youth. And he was an educated man, and so was his wife. He was considered “uppity” by a lot of people in Brookhaven because he was so educated and because he didn’t like to be treated with indignity like so many people were. So I guess he was cordially disliked. He also, I think he cordially disliked most white people. His wife did, anyway because when I would pass there to speak to him, I was just a little boy, about 10 or 12 years old, and she would glare at me, and you could almost see the hate in her eyes. But she would finally speak, she would say, “Good morning,” or something like that very short.
In the early twenties, when Harding was president and the postmaster job in Brookhaven was vacant, Burl applied for that position, which made a lot of people in town very angry. They thought that was just too much. He didn’t receive the appointment, but people didn’t forget it. And it was rumored that on one occasion that he might be, that something might be done to him by the whites. He came down to our house to talk to my father about it and my father said, “Well, we can’t have anything like that. You go home, get your wife and bring her down here.” And he put them in one of the upstairs bedrooms for a couple of days. The whole thing blew over, nothing ever came of it, but that was very highly unusual for a white man to take in Negroes like that. And incidentally, my father would not shake hands with a Negro, wouldn’t be intimate at all in any way, although he was very good to them. A lot of his clients were Negroes who couldn’t afford to pay and it was all right, he would represent them without any pay but he wouldn’t have any familiarity with them.
Bob Jones: That was a general custom…
Sam Jones: That was a general custom at that time.
Betsy Jones: Your father was practicing law then?
Sam Jones: Yes.
Betsy Jones: Or was he the mayor?
Sam Jones: He was practicing law. He practiced law while he was the mayor, too. He was asked to run for mayor because the man he replaced had embezzled a lot of funds, so a group of businessmen called on him and asked him if he would run, try to straighten the city’s affairs out. And my father said he could not because he had a family to support and the mayor’s salary wasn’t enough for that. So they asked him, “Would you be mayor on a part-time basis and continue your practice?” And he said, “Yes, but if I’m going to be mayor on a part-time basis I’d have to have a part-time salary” and so this mayor’s salary was 3600 dollars a year and they paid him, he took 1800 dollars a year and they paid him. He took 1800 dollars and then it turned out that it took most of his time for the city’s affairs. He nearly went broke again during the time that he was mayor.
Betsy Jones: Did you say that this fellow was a Republican?
Sam Jones: Yes. The Negro, yes. That’s all there were…
Betsy Jones: That’s another reason that he was disliked, probably.
Sam Jones: Yes. And because there were very few white Republicans in Mississippi at the time. Mr. Swalm was one, but he was one of the few. Perry Howard was a Negro man who was head of the Republican Party. He was a lawyer in Jackson and he was very fair skinned. One time he came down to Brookhaven to see my father on business and it was in the late afternoon, my father had gone home so he came down to the house to see him. And my mother came to the door and he told her he wanted to see Judge Jones so she asked him to come in and he wouldn’t do it and she said you must come in, come on in and wait for him. And he said, “Mrs. Jones you don’t understand, I’m a Negro man. I would embarrass you, you’d be embarrassed if somebody came while I was here.” And she said, “I wouldn’t be embarrassed at all,” and she insisted that he come in and he was just as adamant about not coming in. She was being a lady and he was being a gentleman. That was about all I remember about that story. I don’t know whether he ever came in or not. Knowing my mother, I expect he did.
[female]: What about the story about Sheriff Lee and your cousin Mattie? Remember that one?
Sam Jones: Yes, I remember…Cousin Dan, Cousin Dan Lee and his wife Cousin Mat raised my mother from the time she was 12 years old till the time she got married. And prior to that time she had lived with a sister who was married and when the sister died she came to Cousin Mat’s. She was a distant cousin. Cousin Dan was a very kind and gentle man. He was just very, we were all crazy about him, all the children were. We liked him better than we did Cousin Mat ‘cause we called him Uncle Dan and called her Cousin. Uncle is a little closer than a cousin. This was during the reconstruction period when there was a great deal of lawlessness in Lawrence County. A group of businessmen came to see Cousin Dan to ask him to run for sheriff. He said, “You know I wouldn’t do that because I’d have to carry a pistol and I don’t even have a gun. I wouldn’t shoot anybody anyway. I just couldn’t do that.” And they said, “We’ll do the pistol packing if you’ll run for sheriff because you’re highly respected by everyone and just your being sheriff will have a good effect on the community.” So he did. He ran for sheriff and was elected.
Shortly after, a man named Joe Lofton who was in the penitentiary at Parchman, Mississippi, because of murder escaped from the pen and he was shot and wounded but he got away and he went down in the country to a friend’s house and was there and he sent word to Monticello for Dr. Tennyson who was the only doctor in the county and asked him to come down and see him. And so Dr. Tennyson went down, dressed his leg and so forth and when he started to leave, Cousin Dan told him, “Now I known Dr, Tennyson, I know you and I know as soon as you go back to Monticello you’re going to tell Dan lee where I am. Don’t do it because you know he doesn’t carry a gun, he’s got no more sense than to come down here and try to take me back and I’m not going. And Dr. Tennyson did exactly what Cousin Dan said, he went back to Monticello and told Cousin Dan so Cousin Dan hitched up his horse to his buggy and went down to see him. In those days, when you came to somebody’s house you shouted hello from out in the street to see if anybody was home. So he got to the front gate and he hollered, “Hello.” And the woman looked out and saw who he was and told Joe Lofton and Joe said, “Tell him not to come in.” And she said, “Mr. Lee, don’t you come in here. Joe Lofton says he’ll kill you if you do.” Uncle Dan just kept right on, went on in the house. He said, “Joe, you know you can’t get away. You may think you can, so you just come on, go with me back to Monticello. I promise you I’ll get you back to the penitentiary without any harm being done to you.”
It took a little persuading, but Joe agreed to go if he could take his gun with him. So, Cousin Dan said yes, so he got in the buggy, Joe Lofton had his gun and they went back to Monticello. It was dark when they got there and they went to the jail and Cousin Dan sent for some of his friends to come there and they came down, making plans to take Joe back to the penitentiary the next day. But word got out in the town about him, so at daybreak the jail was surrounded by a posse, by the posse which had been implemented by a lot of other people.
[female]: Excuse me Sam, was Joe Lofton black or white?
Sam Jones: He was white. So they were planning what to do. The mob was getting very unruly and they were getting something to break down the jail door when all of sudden there was a sound of horses coming and so forth and here came Cousin Mat in the surrey with a buggy whip and she was flipping it back and forth at the crowd saying, “Get out of my way, you scum.” And she drove up to the front of the jail and stood up and addressed the crowd, “You brave men, you may think you’re going to kill my husband but you’ll have to kill me first.” They were so stunned she got into the jail; she went into the jail with the people. They made their plans and they came out with Cousin Mat leading and then there was Joe Lofton with Cousin Dan, she and her husband, Cousin Dan, were supporting him because of his wounded leg. They got in the buggy and drove through the crowd and started back to Brookhaven and the other men came out, got on their horses and followed them. As soon as they had, the mob pulled themselves together, they got on their horses and started following them too. But about three miles out from Monticello the old road forked. One fork came to Brookhaven and the other one went to Wesson, which was about 10 miles north of Brookhaven and where the Illinois Central train stopped there too. So when they got out there, the road to Brookhaven was the shortest one and you would think that would be the one that they would take. Well, Cousin Dan took the north road to Wesson and the men who were with them slowed down enough for the posse to see them turn to the left to come to Brookhaven. And that’s how they got Joe Lofton back to the penitentiary.
Bob Jones: The outlaws followed the ones to Brookhaven.
Sam Jones: Yes. And when Cousin Dan got back home that night and Cousin Mat they found that the posse had been so enraged at not getting Joe Lofton that they had burned his house and his barns and killed all his stock.
[The next part of this story is that Joe Lofton finally got out of the pen and became a Baptist preacher.]
Betsy Jones: Did your mother as a child visit him?
Sam Jones: Yes she did from the time she was 12 years old. And she used to talk about tax paying time they would go down to the courthouse, the sheriff was the tax collector, too, and she said that at night she and Cousin Mat would go down with Cousin Dan to the courthouse and count the money. No, they would count it in the afternoon and they would slip back there at night, the three of them, to get the money and take it back home with them that night because they were so afraid there might be a robbery.
[female]: Sam, you told me that your great grandfather’s name was Andrew Vincent Jones. I would like to know what else you can tell about him that you know of his history.
Sam Jones: I think Bob can tell you more about him because he’s got the papers from his estate. The only thing I know is that he was my great grandfather and he died when my grandfather was about 12 or 13 years old. He was a farmer and I think a fairly successful farmer and he was a capable cabinetmaker.
Betsy Jones: Was he from Monticello?
Sam Jones: Yes. They lived out in Lawrence County.
Betsy Jones: Where did they come from?
Sam Jones: Andrew Vincent’s father was Vincent Jones who came from South Carolina in 1810.
Bob Jones: I remember from my courthouse records that Vincent Jones patented or acquired quite a bit of land from the government in the area of, north of Ruth in what is now Lincoln County. What did they call that creek? Topisaw Creek area, sections 4, 5, 7 and 8, 9 of township 5 north range 9 east. It’s probably more than a thousand acres he had acquired at one time.
Sam Jones: I’ve got copies of those on the patents that he got on some of those lands and I sent them to Doug and also to Zeb and Ed. I think I sent some to you, don’t you have some?
[male]: Yes, I got one on the wall in there.
Bob Jones: Vincent died right at the beginning of the Civil War or right before, I’ve forgotten exactly when, but Andrew Vincent was the administrator of his estate. Vincent had a pretty good estate including several slaves and 80 acres or more of land and all that was liquidated during the Civil War by Andrew Vincent as administrator and it all converted to cash and finally when they got ready to settle the estate, however, the Civil War had ended and all the Confederate cash was nothing but worthless paper.
Betsy Jones: What were some of the items listed in his will?
Bob Jones: I remember, there were the usual plows and tools and furniture and bedsteads and that sort of thing but there were at least three slaves, which brought a very good price at auction, I’ve forgotten, 800 a piece, a thousand, 1200, along in that range; and then 80 acres of land brought about 1000 or 1200 dollars. All together, I think that it was 4 or 5 thousand dollars cash it was converted to or maybe a little bit more, which was a sizeable amount of cash in those days.
Sam Jones: He also left a pale red cow named Pinkie.
Bob Jones: In 1928 you recall there was a double lynching in Brookhaven of two blacks who had gotten into an altercation with K.B. [?] Burns and his brother and had shot and wounded K.B. Burns and the two blacks were arrested and put in the jail and very quickly the word spread about the problem and an angry mob assembled around the jail from the county and from nearby counties. Quite an angry crowd had assembled within a few hours after they had been put in jail. I believe you told me once you were working in Brookhaven at that time; you were off from school, or something…
Sam Jones: It was the summer time and I was working at Hobbs Drug Store at my usual job as Soda Jerk and I went over to the courthouse to see the crowd, but I didn’t stay to see the lynching and all that happened. But the sheriff had not done anything to try to quiet the mob and my father told him, “You’ve got to call the governor. If you don’t call the governor and ask him for the National Guard to come down here I’m just going to beat the hell out of you.” And those were his words, and he never said anything like that. But it was too late. The sheriff called the governor and they were going to send help but it didn’t get there in time. But my father was the only man in Brookhaven, the only decent man in Brookhaven who was there. He got up and tried to quiet the crowd, but they would have nothing to do with him, they just pushed him out of the way and they got the men out of jail, did all those horrible things, I don’t need to go into what they did.
Bob Jones: Somebody later saw you at the store and made some remark…
Sam Jones: Oh yes, a dentist. He just came in just laughing, what was going on over there, and said, “Son, that mob just pushed your dad out of the way like nothing. It really made me mad. I said something I shouldn’t have said, it was out of character for me at that time because I was just about 17 years old, he was an old man and at that time you treated old men with respect. But I never had any respect for him after that.
Bob Jones: He was a dentist?
Sam Jones: Yes…[break] They dragged them, tied them behind a car and dragged them. [break] These were kids; they were always picking on them, the white men. At this time something was said, I don’t know what they said to him but he got angry, he shot K.B. The other man was innocent. He was just in jail for some other reason. But the mob took him too.
Bob Jones: I didn’t know that, I thought there were two of them had been involved…
Sam Jones: No, only the one Negro boy. But you know the streets of Brookhaven were absolutely empty of anybody. Everybody went home, didn’t want to get involved in anything.
[female]: You mean after it was all over?
Sam Jones: No, before it was over.
Bob Jones: Except for the mob.
Sam Jones: Yes, the mob. Yes.
Betsy Jones: Were the stores all closed? Nobody tried to stop them, is what you’re saying.
Sam Jones: Nobody except my father tried to do anything.
[male]: Did anybody get into trouble eventually?
Sam Jones: My father was mayor at that time, too. And was still mayor. He got a lot of hate letters from all over the county. Anonymous letters, most of them were anonymous letters.
[female]: I thought the lynching; because of the lynching…
Bob Jones: He caught it from both sides.
Sam Jones: Yes.
Betsy Jones: This could be a bestseller. The timing is just right.
Sam Jones: Let me tell you a story about Outside.
After my father died and nobody was home except my mother and Ruth and Ella Mae, one rainy night, a dreary, scary, dark, dark night and Momma and Ruth and Ella Mae went home by themselves and the 11:00 number two, the fast train to Chicago came through, and right after that train went by, my mother called my sister Ruth and said, “Ruth, go outside and go to the door and see what that is. I think the train has run over somebody.” So Ruth went to the door, stuck her head out, she heard somebody moaning and groaning, “O-o-o-o you good Christian people, don’t let me die out here in the rain. The train’s run over me and cut off my legs. Please somebody, come help me. Come help me.” And Ruth went back she didn’t know what to do. It was pouring down rain so she went down and did the only thing she could think of, she called Hartman’s ambulance to come down for the man and they came and they charged twenty-five dollars a trip. They came down there to see what it was and what it was was a man was drunk and he had fallen down on the sidewalk in front and his feet hung over to our yard, our yard was about two feet below the street level and so he reached out and he couldn’t find his legs. So he decided the train had run over him. So the ambulance took his and they had to go all over the county trying to find a place, somebody to take him because none of his relatives would have him. [break]…the funeral home, they would him for twenty-five dollars.
Bob Jones: That wouldn’t have been someone we would know, would it?
Sam Jones: No, I don’t know who it is.
Bob Jones: I remember one person we knew came through the front window of your house.
Sam Jones: Let’s don’t go into that here.
[female]: As I recall, he crawled into bed with you and was irate the next morning, wanting to know what you were doing in his bed.
Sam Jones: No, I had gone to bed that night. It was another rainy night, just a good night to stay home and go to bed and keep warm. And I woke up in the middle of the night with the feeling that somebody was in the room with me. I could just feel it. Then I heard, the bed kind of shook a little bit. I said, “There can’t be anybody here, but just to be sure, I’ll say something.” I said, “Who’s there?” And I didn’t expect an answer, but an answer came back, “It’s me.”
[female]: Who was the man?
Sam Jones: Buddy Moreton. I still couldn’t believe it, that there was anybody there, answering, there couldn’t be anybody there and I said, “Well, I’m just imagining this, can’t be anybody there.” So I reached out for the lamp, which was on the table by my bed and there wasn’t any lamp there, I was going to turn it on and there wasn’t any lamp there at all. So then I knew I was crazy and there wasn’t anything going on. But I kept fooling around and finally found it on the floor where it had been knocked over. I turned it on and all I could see in the bed was somebody with the cover up to here and a pair of horn rimmed glasses and hat pulled down over the ears. I pulled back the cover and I said, “Who are you, what are you doing here?” He said, “You know me, Sam, turn out the light and go to bed.” And he said, “Put that cover back on me.” So I pulled the cover back over him and I thought, my God, what am I doing, and I pulled it off again. I was sitting on the bed, sitting on the bed with my knees, just looking at him and about that time my no-good dog Mickey who was supposed to be a watch dog but he slept upstairs with Ruth and Ella Mae in the winter time because he was cold. He came in and Ella Mae right behind him to see what was happening. He was drunk. He was so drunk he didn’t know what he was doing. Ella Mae and I talked about it, we said, “What to do?” And I said, “Maybe we’d just better leave him here.” She said, “Yes, but you’ve got to let somebody know where he is, let his family know where he is.” And so, first I called Kermit Roberts who worked for him, and Kermit said, everybody I talked to said the same thing, I got so sick of having somebody say, “Buddy Moreton is down here.” “Well, what’s he doing down at your house?”
Bob Jones: Kramer Roberts or Kermit Roberts?
Sam Jones: Kramer Roberts. Yes, he worked for Buddy. And I told him what had happened and he said, “Well, Ursula, his wife, is out of town. I’ll come down if you want me to and take him over to my house, but that’s all I can do.” I said I didn’t want to do that. I wanted somebody to know about where he is. So I hung up, that was enough for me but wasn’t enough for Ella Mae. She said, “You better call somebody else, maybe you better call Dr. Atkinson, if there’s anything you can do for him.” So I called Dr. Atkinson at two o’clock in the morning and I told him, I said, “Buddy Moreton is at my house. I don’t know where he came from but he’s drunk as a cooter. He’s in bed. What can I do for him?” The reason she wanted me to call Dr. Atkinson is because he had severe heart trouble and was just out of the hospital with a little heart attack. Dr. Atkinson said the same thing, “What’s he doing down at your house?” I said, “I don’t know.” Then he started laughing. He just couldn’t stop laughing. He said, “He’s all right. The best thing to do is just leave him there, keep him wrapped up.”
Ella Mae said, “You better call his mother and father.” I said, “I can’t call. I don’t want to upset them.” She said, “Yes, you have to.” So I called. Gert, who is his mother, answered the phone. So I disguised my voice. I said, “Mrs. Moreton, is, may I speak with Mr. Moreton?” And she said, “Sam Jones, what are you doing calling at this time of night? Is something wrong with Buddy? It must be something about Buddy.” I said, “No, it’s nothing. Just let me speak to Tom.” And he got on the phone and he was drunk. “What’s he doing at your house?” I said, “I don’t know what he’s doing at my house!”
Finally, Ruth never came downstairs; she had stayed upstairs. It was cold as it could be and I was running around that house on the cold floor with my bare feet. And Ella Mae said, “Come on, I’ll fix you a bed upstairs.” So we started upstairs and Ruth asked, “What’s wrong? What’s going on?” And Ella Mae said, “You and Mickey are the darndest people. Somebody, a burglar, could come in and run off with Sam and you wouldn’t do a thing about it.” Ruth started giggling, giggled all night long. I was in bed shivering. I could hear her giggling. I’d get so mad I said, “She’ll be sorry if I have pneumonia in the morning.”
So I was just getting to sleep when I heard bang, bang, bang on the back door. And I got up and went downstairs and it was the Arrington boy, Mr. Moreton and the Arrington boy, who was Buddy’s brother-in-law. A.C. Arrington. They were going hunting. Hunting clothes. They wanted to know what about Buddy. And I said, “Come in see for yourself.” And I took them in there and they saw there was nothing they could do, so they went on and left. But that was something.
The next morning, I guess about six o’clock I said I might as well go on and get dressed so I went on in my room and went in the bathroom and so forth and came out. Just as I came out Buddy woke up. “Sam Jones, what are you doing here?” I said, “This is my house. This is my bed.” “Aw,” he said, “It’s not. It can’t be. I went to bed over at Mr. Behan’s last night.” I said, “You might have thought you did, but you went here.” And he just couldn’t believe it and he started crying. And he said, “I’m sorry, I’ve been drunk before, but never so drunk that I didn’t know what I was doing.” I said, “That’s what you did.” That was the end of that.
Robert Lee wanted me to bring him too, but we only had one car in the two families, and ours too, and Robert Lee phoned me and wanted me to bring the car down there so I went out and got the car, drove it there and went to the barber shop and parked it in front of the barber shop and went into the barber shop to get a hair cut. And I was having it, the barber was cutting my hair and I looked, happened to look out and see across the road, I saw Robert Lee out in front of the bank. I told the barber, I said, “Excuse me please for a little while.” I went out, got the car and took it back over to Robert Lee.
Another time, I, somebody was sick and Ella Mae had fixed a tray of food to take to them. So we agreed I’d drive her but she would go out the front of the house and up the steps. I drove out of the yard and just went right on up town and took care of my business, whatever I was doing. Ella Mae was out front at the front gate with a tray of food. After I got uptown and thought about it, I turned around and came back and, oh boy, she was furious.
[female]: You drove right past her?
Sam Jones: No, I didn’t drive past her. She hadn’t gotten out there with the food when I went uptown.
[female]: You had another story about Mickey, Mickey’s trick.
Sam Jones: Oh, yes. Mickey, that good for nothing, my dog. He always slept in the room with me except, as I said, when it was too cold then he went upstairs with Ruth and Ella Mae. He slept by the side of my bed and the last thing I’d do is reach down and pet him before I went to sleep.
Bob Jones: He was a German Shepherd dog.
Sam Jones: Yes. This night it was a cold night and he kept trying to get in the bed with me and I wouldn’t do it. I said, “Get down, Mickey, get down. Go lie down. So, he went off to the window and looked out and began barking, looking out barking like he was barking at somebody. And I said, “Can’t do that, Mickey. Come sit down.” But he kept on so I thought I’d better go out and see, there might be somebody out there. And I did. I went to the window and while I was doing that, why Mickey got in bed in my warm spot.
Betsy Jones: No one was there, no one was outside?
Sam Jones: No. That concludes my part of the entertainment.
Bob Jones: Thank you. It’s been nice having you on the program. I hope you’ll come back.