Radio pioneer Frank Churchill Jones, who developed the Sonar detection
system for the Navy, died Sunday at a Sonoma hospital. He was 91.
Jones also designed and built the radio-telephone communications system for
the Oakland Bay Bridge in the 1930s. And in the mid-1920s, he was the first
radio amateur to receive a message from across the United States.
He was a highly regarded consulting engineer and longtime Ham radio
Amateur radio friends said Jones was known worldwide for his research,
innovative work and key developments in radio and related fields.
Attorney Ken McTaggart of Sonoma, a longtime friend, said Jones certainly
was on a level with and knew other radio pioneers like David Sarnoff of RCA,
Edwin Armstrong and Lee De Forest, all known for their work in electronics and
contributions to radio.
''He was known as much for his work in professional electronics as in
amateur radio,'' McTaggart said.
Jones was born on a farm in Seville, Ohio. He was reared in Spokane, Wash.,
and Berkeley where he graduated from high school in 1921. He graduated from
the University of California, Berkeley, in 1925 with a degree in electrical
and mechanical engineering. He then worked for Pacific Telephone. He married
Edith Lilian Jones the same year.
Jones did graduate work in electrical engineering at U.C. Berkeley in 1928.
He also wrote many articles for radio magazines under his own and pen names.
After designing speakers and transformers for Motorola in 1929, he became a
full-time consultant in 1931.
He embarked on a long and distinguished career in communications
development for government and private industry. Much of his work was for the
military and defense including the Sonar system for the Navy after a cathode
ray tube was obtained from the British.
At the start of World War II, radio communications between air fields in
the United States were poor. Longtime friend Bob Townsend of Santa Rosa said
Jones was sought by the Army Air Corps to solve the problem. Jones rounded up
a bunch of Ham radio operators with their own home-built equipment, got them
ranks of staff sergeant in the Air Corps and linked the fields by amateur
radio. He was a civilian consultant for the 4th Air Force on the West Coast at
Prior to the war's end, Jones received the Exceptional Civilian Service
Award from the Department of War and Secretary of War in San Francisco.
After the war, it was learned that both the Japanese and Germans
incorporated details from Jones' writings in their aircraft and other
In addition to his wife, Jones is survived by his son, Alan Jones of Menlo
Park; daughters, Marjorie Alice Ball of Los Osos and Lilian Morgan Bott of
Felton; seven grandchildren; and six greatgrandchildren.
No services were held at his request. Duggan's Mission Chapel in Sonoma
assisted with arrangements. Memorial contributions can be made to the American
Cancer Society, Sonoma County Unit, 2930 McBride Lane, Santa Rosa 95403-2789.