Adoption pioneer tells his story

On Feb. 13, 1969, Bill Jones, then a 39-year-old single man living in San Francisco, officially adopted his son, whom he named Aaron. In so doing, he became the first single man in California — and most likely the U.S. — to adopt a child by himself.

via marinij.com

The adoption, the fodder of TV talk shows and media headlines all over the world when it became public in the summer of 1969, was the answer to a dream for Jones, who said he “always wanted to be a father.”

Although the adoption agency at the time was fiercely divided on whether to allow Jones to go through with adopting Aaron, he managed to keep the case quiet until it was a fait accompli. He said he did receive a probing phone call from a San Francisco Chronicle reporter early on, but the reporter agreed to hold the story if Jones would promise to give the full interview for a feature article that would run on the front page of the Chronicle lifestyles section on Father’s Day in 1969, he said. It was a deal.

After the Father’s Day splash, it was only a news cycle or two before the Associated Press picked up the story and ran it internationally.

“I was getting letters from people in France, in Italy,” Jones said. Although it was generally accepted that was the first man in California to adopt as a solo parent, Jones suspects he was the first in the nation because, despite the widespread publicity, no one ever came forward to challenge that status, he said.

Bill Jones’ dream ended tragically when Aaron died at age 30 from a heroin overdose. Aaron Hunter Jones, who was born to a heroin-addicted mother and who was later diagnosed as being schizophrenic, died in an alleyway between a church and a warehouse.

“I still cry over the ending,” Jones told a National Public Radio interviewer in 2015. “But … I would do it again. I loved him so much, and he loved me too. And so, I was lucky in so many ways.”

“I don’t want my son to be forgotten,” Jones said in explaining his motivation for writing the book. “And I’m writing it because I want people to know that gay men and lesbians can be just as good as parents and love their children just as much as heterosexuals.”

“And gay men and lesbians can suffer just as much as any parent who loses a child,” he added.

Photo via Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal
Reach this story’s author at kbrenner@marinij.com or follow Keri on Twitter: @KeriWorks