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Weyman B. 'Sandy,' Jones, 91, former Grumman exec, dies

Weyman B.

Weyman B. "Sandy" Jones, seen here on Dec. 14, 2006 in Centerport, died earlier this month at the age of 91. Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile

Weyman B. “Sandy” Jones, a novelist, fisherman and former Grumman Corp. public affairs executive who helped derail a hostile takeover attempt, has died. He was 91. 

Jones was hospitalized on Memorial Day and died June 9 at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in California.

After a stint in the Navy and a string of corporate communications jobs at IBM, Kennecott Copper and Xerox, Jones joined aerospace manufacturer Grumman in May 1976 as vice president for public affairs.

He settled his family in Centerport and relished fishing and cruising the Long Island Sound in his Boston Whaler.

In 1981, during his tenure at the iconic Long Island firm, Dallas-based LTV made a hostile $450 million bid to take over Grumman, then Long Island's largest employer. With Grumman chairman and chief executive John C. "Jack" Bierwirth, Jones waged a multipronged campaign against the deal, which required the approval of Grumman shareholders.

To enlist popular support, Grumman flew planes above Long Island with aerial banners urging, "Beat 'Em Back, Jack," a slogan crafted by Jones, said his daughter, Lynn K. Jones of Santa Barbara.

The warring corporations employed lawyers, lobbyists, and radio and TV advertising. At one point, a top Grumman executive went toe to toe with his counterpart at LTV in a televised debate on the merits of the merger.

Afterward, the LTV executive could only say, "Boy, you really did a number on me," according to Carol Nelson, who worked for Jones during his tenure at Grumman.

Ultimately, Grumman beat back the LTV takeover — "one of the heights of his career," Lynn Jones said. It retained its independence until it was acquired by Northrop in 1994.

Jones described his work at Grumman as demanding, but "satisfying to the spirit."

Reinhardt "Rick" Van Dyke, who served as president and CEO of the Family Service League, became friends with Jones, who sat on the Huntington nonprofit's board for about 20 years. "We used to go fishing," Van Dyke said. "I asked, 'What about fishing really gets you?' He said, 'It's the mystery of it.' "

Born in Lima, Ohio, and reared in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Jones described himself in an autobiography as a "sickly child" whose tonsil infection was misdiagnosed as tuberculosis. At 6, instead of starting school, he spent a year in bed. But it was there that he was taught to read by Cassie, the family's Cherokee maid, his daughter said.

"That ignited his lifelong love of stories," Lynn Jones added.

In high school he was a wrestler and earned a full scholarship to Harvard, where his thesis was "An Analysis of Cherokee Mythology." Cherokee culture played a role in several of his books, including "The Talking Leaf" and its sequel, "Edge of Two Worlds," both published in the 1960s.

Jones left Grumman in 1991, but he never really retired, his daughter said. "In the last few months of his life, he was still putting together lectures and giving adult-ed classes about the development of narrative."

In his post-Grumman years, Jones produced a string of mystery and thriller novels, including "Evil in Return," "Messages," "Broken Glass," and "The Unexpected."

Jones' wife, Marilyn, died in 2017. In addition to Lynn, he is survived by daughter Paula Herrington of Vashon Island, Washington, and three grandchildren.

Jones was interred on June 12 at the Goleta Cemetery District in Santa Barbara.

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