J. Donald Jones, 2008 Westminster Best In Show Judge, is a
retired counseling psychologist and college administrator. He lives in Marietta,
Georgia where he was an Emory University Dean for twenty years.
Interview by Barbara J. Andrews
During his forty year judging career, he has judged the
prestigious Westminster Kennel Club on eight other occasions, two of which were
Group assignments. Dr. Jones also officiates at top shows around the world.
His soft spoken instructions encourage proper ring
decorum and gaiting a dog at the proper speed. He is and will always
be a teacher and a true southern gentleman.
His original breeds are Dobermans, German Shepherd
Dogs, Miniature Pinschers, Schipperkes and Pembroke Welsh Corgis. He
owner handled his Corgi to top honors and had the top winning
Schipperke in breed history.
We asked Dr. Jones how the Beagle got
to him. "What cinched it was when he was going around the ring
the last time. He went at the correct speed, absolutely
"That's the almost nearly perfect dog I've ever seen.
You're out there with seven GREAT Dogs and I picked the greatest of
the great. That's how I picked him. It's wonderful to have that kind
What about the Akita? Wasn't she a favorite going in?
"She is one of the
most wonderful of dogs, really gorgeous and so correct. It was a
fine line between them all. I gave the Beagle a perfect ten but the
others all scored a 9.9.
"It was a wonderful, wonderful line-up. No one in the
world ever had a more pleasant job and such a really high
responsibility. To pick the greatest of the great is something
The AKC records the Beagle as one of the most popular
breeds yet that's their first Westminster Best In Show. For those
watching from home, and you've done it too, the telecast is so good
now that it feels like you are right there. "Right, and this year was very special, in my mind
everything about it was better than its ever been. All the good dogs
came through. Many times, some of those we know well, seem to get
lost in the Breed or Group judging. But this time they were at the
Yes, our staff said the same thing. Personally, I think
you couldn't have had a better choice, and you couldn't have made a
He chuckles. "I said about the Beagle, "that it is the
most nearly perfect dog I've ever judged.' And I think that's true
but keep in mind there were six other great dogs in there standing
right behind him."
Those who have shown to you know you don't like the
handlers to race around the ring. Your Best In Show dog moved
beautifully. People could really see and appreciate them.
"I've never seen such perfect locomotion as I did with
the Beagle. He was so coordinated with his handler; Aaron Wilkerson,
and the way they went around the ring that last time, it was like
"Oh look at that!"'
I guess Aaron is more experienced than his age would
"He was raised with the Beagle in his family. I've known the kid
since he was ten years old. He worked for Denny Mounce and she
deserves some credit for helping raise him. He's a polite young man
who shows his dogs professionally, accepts his awards
professionally, whatever' they are, and keeps a very pleasant
attitude and look on his face.
He smiled, "His parents did a good job apparently, too. But
now, you have to give Denny credit because she told me he started
working for her when he was only ten years old." (laughing now) "I
think next to me and him, she was the happiest person in the whole
world that night."
We're trying to catch up with Uno's owners and with
Aaron. He did a great job.
"Yes he did. Of course you could say that about every
handler in the ring. They all did a first rate job."
Was this your first time judging Best In Show at the
Garden? "Yes, you know you don't get to do that but once.
(laughing) Only one judge has done it twice and that's the late
great Virgil Johnson.
"He was one of my mentors and a friend who also lived in
Georgia. He judged Westminster twice, in 1954 and 1963. Michelle
Billings also lived in Georgia before she moved to Florida and she
has judged there more than once."
Right, but she hasn't judged Best In Show twice has
"Oh no, nobody's done it twice since Virgil. Early in the
fifties he judged Best and put up a notorious, famous Cocker
Spaniel. "Rise N' Shine" was the name. It belonged to a woman in
Atlanta who worked for a group of doctors. It was said she embezzled
over a hundred thousand dollars and in the fifties, that was a lot
of money. I don't know what ever happened to her but the dog was
quite famous. Teddy Young showed the dog. Virgil judged it again,
about seven years later but that time he put a Springer Spaniel
'Black watch something..' as Best In Show."
Your memory is incredible! David Frei provided a ton of
Westminster background but you could be a dog show historian.
"Oh yes, David Frei is really good. Just call him if
you need to confirm anything."
Well sir. One last question. What is the one thing that
really drew your eye to the beagle?
"His perfect locomotion obviously, but also his face
and expression. It will melt you when you look directly in his face.
So sweet and so loving, so pleasant and gentle that you just melt
down right there."
I can see that! Our staff got a great shot. The "Beagle In A Bowl" was charming
everyone around the table.
Click here for 2008 coverage.
Don, we appreciate you sharing these insights with our
"You are more than welcome. It was a great show, great
dogs, and a highlight of my judging career."