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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah on Friday lost a political icon in Dan Jones, a prominent pollster and political consultant. He was 84.
His wife, Pat Jones, a businesswoman and former legislator, said he died Friday afternoon surrounded by his family after battling congestive heart failure for the past few months.
Pat Jones told the Deseret News on Friday of her husband's passion for politics and his ability to inspire the thousands of students he taught. Her husband received his Ph.D. from the University of Utah and taught at the university for more 52 years.
"He was a tough teacher. He made sure that his students were there on time. … Even though his classes were very large, sometimes 200, he knew when somebody was not there. And he would oftentimes call them and ask if they were OK," Pat Jones said.
He also had a kind heart and would notice students who seemed to be struggling.
"He could tell if someone was, if they'd been up all night with a new baby or working all night, and … a lot of students that have told me this, that he would slip them $50," she said.
Pat Jones said wherever the family went, former students would approach them and tell them he was their favorite professor.
Former student Marcus Nord said, "You enter his class. You're expecting just, you know, the normal political science class, and you come out loving politics, loving the system and wanting to get involved."
His influence on Utah's political world runs deep.
In a statement Friday, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said "Dan was a remarkable man who had a profound impact on Utah's political landscape. But most importantly, he was a great friend. Elaine and I will miss him dearly. My prayers are with Pat and the Jones family at this difficult time."
After Jones conducted his first survey in 1959 and co-founded Dan Jones and Associates in 1980, it quickly became the premier market research and public opinion company in Utah.
Over the years, his polling firm became one of the most popular in the country.
Pat Jones said that as she and her husband built the business together for 35 years, he was always an advocate for women.
"It was a pleasure to work with him because, you see a lot with what's happening with women now, he was always the first to stand up for me, he would give me credit where it was due and not allow anyone to give him credit when it was really someone else's responsibility, and I've always appreciated that," Pat Jones said.
Together, Pat and Dan Jones have seven children and 16 grandchildren. In addition to his political career, he served as a captain in the Army, according to his wife.
His son, Mark Jones, said that though the family is mourning, they are also rejoicing "in the memories of his incredible life of service as a teacher, pollster, friend and family man."
"He loved helping the underdog. He would never turn his back on anyone who needed help," he said.
Mark Jones also thanked those who have reached out to his family over the past months, as well as the staff at the hospice center where his father stayed for his last few months.
Longtime KSL Newsradio host Doug Wright told the Deseret News, "Dan Jones was just part of the fabric of our state, and so many people had him as a professor at Utah State, University of Utah, so many of us knew him in the political environment.
"He was just that person you could always call, and he would know what the deal was. And he had probably polled it for you."
He was a fixture on many Utah news channels and publications.
Wright said Jones was "just a remarkable man, a remarkable pollster. He truly was respected, not just here in the state of Utah, but around the country. And if you said 'these statistics come from a Dan Jones poll,' it mattered and people listened."
Former Deseret News managing editor Rick Hall said he knew Jones for nearly 41 years at the newspaper and worked closely with him for about 20 years.
"He just was a decent, good human being," Hall said, who also "lived for accuracy. Dan just staked his whole reputation on his accuracy. He wasn't going to fudge the numbers, he wasn't going to be bought off."
The former editor said he was saddened to hear of Jones' passing, but also was "just grateful to have known him for as long as I did."
Dan was a remarkable man who had a profound impact on Utah's political landscape. But most importantly, he was a great friend.
–Sen. Orrin Hatch
Other Utah politicians and leaders on Friday took to social media to mourn his passing.
The Utah Senate tweeted, "Dan's legacy will long be felt in Utah politics. During his long career, he earned a well-deserved reputation as a trusted pollster and effective educator. We extend our sincerest condolences to Pat Jones and their family."
The Cicero Group, which purchased Dan Jones and Associates in 2010, issued a statement in which the group recalled his "fast wit and tremendous work ethic."
Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, tweeted, "My friend Dan Jones was an icon in Utah politics and he will be missed. My sincere condolences to his wonderful family and friends."
U. President Ruth Watkins offered condolences to the Jones family on behalf of the school and said he was "a gifted teacher who influenced countless students."
"Dan Jones lived a life of public service. He helped politicians and the public understand the nuances of our most pressing issues," Watkins said.
"We're sorry to hear of the passing of Dan Jones. We, too, offer our sincere condolences to his wife, Pat, and their family at this difficult time," the Utah Republican Party tweeted.
Derek Miller, Salt Lake Chamber CEO, said, "Dan was an remarkable man, in Utah's political arena, and also as an educator, policymaker and influencer who readily shared his wisdom and passion with everyone he met."
Through the years on Election Day, Dan Jones and his staff would interview voters at polling locations. Jones used data he gathered there to make election predictions on KSL TV for 30 years.
"Today we mourn the passing of the most trusted man in Utah politics and our state's pre-eminent pollster, Dr. Dan Jones. Dan inspired generations of students to care about politics and get excited about voting and civic engagement. He will be deeply missed," the Hinckley Institute tweeted.
Mitt Romney in a statement called Jones a "political institution in Utah."
"For years his good work kept our political system on a straight and honest path. He will be missed, but his influence and impact will be felt by our state for years to come," Romney said.
Former students of Jones also took to Twitter on Friday to share their thoughts at his passing.
"I loved attending his classes at the University of Utah where he brought local and national history to life," Paul Jones Dayton wrote.
"I had the honor of taking a class taught by Dan Jones. It was one of the most impactful of my life. This is a sad day for Utah politics," Brian Scott Allen tweeted.
Though Jones will not be present for Tuesday's election, his wife noted that one of his last acts was to cast an early ballot.
"He was always almost the first one to vote. Before we had mail-in voters, by the way, he already voted. He voted the first day, when they had the mail in. So his vote's already in," Pat Jones said.
She added, "And I wish he could have lasted through the election, Tuesday. He had some pretty strong opinions on it. But he won't be there to call them on Tuesday. But his heart will be there."
Regarding the future of politics, Pat Jones said, "The one thing that he would want is for people to forgive and to heal so that we can be the great nation that our forefathers and mothers knit together. That's what he would want."
Contributing: Carole Mikita