Farewell to a genuine, selfless servant — Jewel Joseph Newman.
A giant tree of the forest has fallen, and the void left will not easily, if ever, be filled. Mortal life is especially kind to those privileged to have had the rare and special joy of knowing, huddling with and sharing the inspiring friendship of a thoroughly decent human being — the likes of Jewel Joseph Newman (aka: “J.J.,” “Full-time,” “Jewel,” “Mr. Newman,” etc.). A Baton Rouge native, he succumbed to bodily death on Oct. 4, 2014, at age 93.6. No honest person who really knew J.J. would disagree with the characterizations of this humble, friendly, energetic, godly man herein expressed. He was a Baton Rouge metro councilman for 12 years and a state representative for four years.
Over the years, The Advocate published approximately 50 of my letters. The only one published in both The Advocate and The State-Times papers in the 1980s was a tribute to Mr. Newman. It expressed the thought that had Jesus come to Earth at that time instead of 2,000 years earlier, He would have chosen Jewel Newman to be one of “The 12.” And, most likely, Jewel would have been the substitute for Peter. Some 30 years later, my admiration for this remarkable man has only increased. Like rare wine, the quality of his life improved with age. Jewel delighted in doing good things for ordinary people.
A book about Mr. Newman would not begin to tell his story — it would take volumes to do that. Like all great men, Jewel’s life was not exempt from the “bitter-pill” disappointments that give rise to men’s personal challenges. One such test was his need to forgive those who betrayed his trust. And one of my most endearing and enduring memories of J.J. was, and will remain, a case of political reconciliation. The parties involved yielded to the spirit of Matthew 18:15. Their faithful obedience also showed that advancing years are no barrier to spiritual growth. Indeed, this victory was one of his “finest hours.”
This devoted family man; this charitable man of goodwill; this selfless public/private servant; this World War II veteran; this friendly, full-service businessman (Newman Esso Service Station); this grateful, noncomplaining overcomer of major accidents and illnesses; this upright Christian gentleman gave his last full measure of devotion on Oct. 4 — his lifeless body to science — a giver until the very end.
His was a well-lived, heroic life! Baton Rouge will miss him! He was a great servant and a good man! As a Christian, there is an embarrassing sense of shame in making this final statement in this 21st century. But, life is what it is, hence (otherwise, needless to say): The mutual regard that marked Jewel’s life stretched across the superficial Southern lines of race and class.
Roland F. Carey