Born in Sandusky, Ohio, Jones was the son of Frank and Ilene Jones. His father was a garage mechanic, who had ties to the Hells Angels motorcycle gang chapter in Ohio. Jones admitted to never graduating high school and selling narcotics from the age of 15 onwards.
Arrested for drug trafficking in 1972, "Ernie Ray" was made a member in the Angels in prison and moved to Oakland, California in 1978 after his release to become a "Full Patch" member and aide to Sonny Barger.
Jones and several members of the Oakland chapter were on a ride to Redwood National and State Park when Doomsday occurred; though never admitted by him, it was assumed to have been a drug meeting.
Like most armed groups, Jones' band marauded the Pacific Coast in the anarchy after Doomsday. Their predations upon the local townships were considered "benign", as they rarely killed the inhabitants nor left them completely without food. Rape was common though, as well as sexual slavery. But the cannibalism of later groups was missing.
Eventually, Jones established himself in Crescent City as basically a feudal lord. A fishing village, it had relatively abundant food. Shrimp and tuna boats were re-fitted as sailboats and the population reduced starvation to nearly pre-Doomsday levels. Jones' power and prestige grew in the wake of that "prosperity". Naturally, he and his men took the lion's share of the food and local women were divided out by Jones as "mamas" to his men. He himself had a harem of some dozen women, though he "kept to the code", the Angels' prohibition against child molestation, and refused to parcel out any woman younger than sixteen. By late in the 1990s, he had fathered nearly 25 children by these women, nearly half surviving to adulthood.
With the assault on Eureka, Jones and other Angels leaders who had established themselves in the northern California/southern Oregon area, allied to fight off cannibalistic brigands. Jones took on the appellate "Boss Jones" and became a virtual king, with vassal lords being established in Fort Dick, Gasquet, Hiouchi, Klamath, Patrick Creek, Douglas Park, Darlingtonia, and Smith River townships in Del Norte County. Eventually he and his supporters became the core group of the Pacific Coast Police Unit.
In 1991, the USS Benjamin Franklin visited the area and came in contact with several of the surviving coastal towns. Various city-states adopted new constitutions referring to themselves as "Republics" or in some cases declaring themselves the new government of the United States. But Jones would have none of it. He threatened war with any American Provisional Administration forces that intruded in Crescent City or his fiefdom. He spent the next six months, fortifying the harbor of Crescent City and Battery Point Lighthouse island. When the APA tried to establish a presence in the nearby Del Norte County Airport in April 1993, Jones led an assault on the APA forces; he succeeded in taking several of the APA officials hostage.
A rescue mission by American Special Forces was mounted. This became known as the "Crescent City Crises". Several of the hostages were killed, as well as over 200 civilians in Crescent City. "Boss Jones" survived, but the real blow was to the American Provisional Administration, because it showed a key weakness of the APA projecting power from ANZC to the former USA.
Weakened by the hostage crises, Jones' power began to wane in the late 1990s. Other "under-bosses" in local cities saw his weakness and began jockeying to usurp power from him. Jones was able to rebuff most of these for years, but in March 2000, "Big Ed" Killian, "boss" of Klamath, offered to meet with Jones claiming he had information about a mutiny by another vassal lord. Jones fell for the ruse which was obviously a double-cross. As Jones reached out to shake Killian's hand, "Big Ed" drove a knife into Jones' chest and his men opened fire on Jones' bodyguards. Luring the rest of Jones' forces out of Crescent City on a ruse, he wiped out most of the Jones' loyalists and took Crescent City for himself.
Killian himself was killed less than a year later, in another power grab by "Boss Reynolds" from Smith River.