Now a grandmother of six, Jones is honing her organizing skills. This week, she is in Denver as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. She did not identify herself as a Democrat until Obama came to Boise and got her hooked on politics.
Did you grow up in a political family?
I grew up in a Democratic family in Chicago. I don't know if there was any other kind. If there was, I wasn't aware of it. My husband, who is retired military, moved the family here to Boise in 1974. I worked the phone banks for Frank Church's campaign.
Why did you do that?
Because I liked what I heard. I believed in what he stood for at the time. It was when he was running for president. I have over time, as we've lived in Boise, been more of an independent voter, but I voted mostly Republican. I voted for Cecil Andrus. He is the best. You can put that in there. But I also voted for Phil Batt, and I thought he was a good guy. I liked Kempthorne, I voted for him.
Isn't that a shame? I voted for Bush, and I've been real disappointed. One of the reasons that I made the change—my husband likes to think that I saw the light—is I've been real disappointed in the Republican Party as far as what the Republicans have offered to African Americans.
In what way?
Republicans are against—the platform is against—affirmative action. It would be nice if people would just be nice, but sometimes they need a little incentive to be more fair in hiring practices.
When did you start to see that?
I kept waiting. I kept waiting. I guess you could call me an evangelical Christian, I guess. And the reason I say that is because it's almost like being a Christian is synonymous with being a Republican, and I want to change that view. There are a lot of good people that are Democrats that are Christians and love Jesus.
Did you feel that you were drawn to the GOP because of your religion?
It's about being a values voter. But I made up my mind that I'm not a one-issue voter or even a two-issue voter. I don't agree with everything that the Democratic platform espouses, but then I didn't believe in everything that the Republicans did either.
You left Chicago before Obama moved there?
Oh yes. I left Chicago in '68. I've actually lived in Boise longer than I ever lived at home. Back in 2006, I had the privilege of meeting Barack Obama and Michelle Obama at a social event in Chicago. I heard his speech on TV at the 2004 Democratic convention. I said, "that man is going somewhere." I was so impressed with him. After that I didn't think any more about it, but when I heard that he was going to come to Boise, oh, I tell you, I was beside myself, I was so happy. And I stood outside in the cold, my husband and I, waiting to get into Taco Bell Arena. When I went to that rally, it was like I was going through some kind of transformation. And I said, "this is a politician that I can get behind."
What are you doing for him?
Since then I've done some voter registration for the Democratic Party. I recently worked the fair booth, and I wasn't sure what to expect. I had one lady that walked by and said, "I hope he doesn't win," but she didn't look at me. She said it and kept going, and I thought it would be ugly for me to run her down. People will come up to us and kind of mumble and say, "He's the one, I'm going to support him."
Did you ever talk with Republicans about affirmative action?
You bet. I haven't been personally ill-treated by any Republicans, but I don't think that many Republicans get it—the world is not just made up of pigment-challenged people. It's just not. I would consider myself a moderate Democrat, but I also believe there has to be room for all of us on this planet in the sense that we reach across the aisle.
Were you ever interested in Al Sharpton or Jessie Jackson as candidates?
No. I'll just leave it at that. What I like about Obama is that he tends to—I'm not real comfortable with the word "inclusive"— but Obama, he's trying to figure out a way that we can work together. Some of the Democrats that you mentioned haven't really worked toward coming together with people who are not of a like mind. They highlight the differences and establish a platform that hammers away at these differences. Where, except in America, could something like this happen? This is history-making.
How did you become a delegate?
In June, all of us delegates had an opportunity to run for national. A friend and I, Rebecca Suits, as a part of our campaign, hosted a hospitality suite, and we called it Soul Food, Sweets and Eats. So we had all this soul food, we had tables heavily laden with sweets: sweet potato pies, lemon pound cakes and peach cobbler ... then we had pulled pork and green beans and we had fried chicken, potato salad, rolls ... all I can tell you is that it was just unbelievable turnout. Two soul sisters. I was like a Jack-in-the-box when they called my name.
There is some discomfort among Democrats with religion.
I know. They have to get over it. I'm not proselytizing. But there are a lot of solid Christian folks that are Democrats. This is not new. But for some reason, Democrats have tended not to necessarily speak to that issue. It's all a part of who I am.
Are there moral issues in the Democratic party that you are uncomfortable with?
This is my position: I'm not anybody's judge, that's God's business. That's what I'm gonna say to you. Did you get that? My name is Fran, not God.
How will Idaho receive a black presidential candidate?
I can't speak for all of Idaho, but clearly the capital sent a message when Sen. Obama came to Idaho. His color in this instance is incidental. I have never been this passionate about a political candidate before. Who knows? I may decide to run for something.