A Tribute to Mr. W. J. Jones
“Faithful servant, thy work all done
Beautiful soul into glory gone
Beautiful life with its Crown now won,
God giveth thee rest.
Rest from all of the fightings and fears
Rest from all possible sightings and tears
Rest through all of God’s wonderful years
God giveth thee rest.”
A beautiful and useful life on Earth was finished when William J. Jones was called to his heavenly home on September 4, 1984.
William Junius Jones was born in Oak Hill, Alabama, April 3, 1895, the third son of Dr. Joseph Harvey Jones and Jesse Bonner Jones. His father’s ancestors and his mother’s forebears settled here in 1820. The family roots are deep in the soil of this Central Alabama County—Wilcox.
He attended grammar school at the two-teacher school in Oak Hill and also completed his high school studies here, having been tutored by the late Mrs. Sara Henry Nicholson. He attended Erskine College, Due West, South Carolina for two years in preparation to study medicine. World War I came along and he did not enter medical college but enrolled at Marion Military Institute where he graduated in Jr. College work.
He entered the Army in 1918 and spent 9 ½ months with the American Expeditionary Force in France. For six weeks in Southern France he served around the Swiss border. He was discharged from the Army in May of 1919.
On November 12, 1922, William J. Jones and Joyce Clopton Carothers exchanged marriage vows. Their married life was one of contentment, industry and happiness, where hospitality and plenty gave generous welcome to all who passed that way. His devoted wife shared his sorrows and joys for more than fifty eight years when she was called to her celestial home and preceded him to the grave. “None knew her but to love her, none named her but to praise.”
He was a faithful member of Bethel Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, at Oak Hill, Alabama. He joined the Bethel ARP church in his early youth and all of his life, he remained a loyal and consistent member and gave unstintingly to its welfare. His loyalty and support of the church of his fathers and of his love stands as a tremendous challenge to the rest of us who remain behind. Mr. Jones was a ruling Elder of Bethel and served as Clerk of the Session for many, many years. He filled the office of elder in a conscientious and responsible manner. He was widely known through the A.R.P. General Synod, being a frequent attendant at Presbytery and Synod. He was endowed with a beautiful tenor voice and was a member of Bethel’s choir. He loved the Psalms and took great joy in the singing of them. He also rendered his services to the Lord, in the teaching of the Young Adult Sabbath School Class.
We praise God for this beautiful life, “while haven is more precious because of his presence there, our earthly home has been blessed because of his sojourn here.”
William Junius Jones furthered his studies at the University of Alabama and received his B.S. Degree in Education from that institution. It was from Columbia University, New York City that he received his Master’s Degree in School Administration.
He was appointed Superintendent of Education in Wilcox County September 1, 1923. He served faithfully and trustingly until June, 1965. He was always conscientious in his work and gave his very best efforts to the Wilcox County children and teachers under his care. He was loyal and cooperative with the school people with whom he worked and was respected and admired throughout the fields of education in the State. It would be impossible to measure the influence of such a life as Mr. Jones in the training of several generations of children that grew up under him. Such a life and influence of his will not die, but continue to live as long as there are those living who have been guided by his skillful and careful training. “To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die” and so in the memory of all of us, “Cuz Bill” lives, but in another room. Our lives have been enriched by knowing him.
Mr. Jones served as Wilcox County Red Cross Chairman from 1949 until 1967. He rendered an invaluable service to the County as the Chairman of this organization. During his eighteen years of service many activities of value to the county were carried on—service to our men and their families, to veterans and their dependents, first aid classes, home nursing classes and the County Blood Program was established during this time.
During Mr. Jones’ tenure with the American Red Cross, he was also serving as Wilcox County Chairman of the Alabama Society for Crippled Children and Adults and was also a member of the Center’s executive committee.
After Mr. Jones’ retirement in 1965, he and Mrs. Jones immediately began to commute to Montgomery three days a week to teach in the Rehabilitation Center’s Academic Instruction Department. They loved the clients and the clients returned their love. They retired from this work with the center in 1974.
It has indeed been fine to know such a person as “Cuz Bill”. The memory of his life stands as a challenge to his friends and loved ones and it is comforting to know that he has entered into that haven of happiness that he so richly deserved and that now he is reaping the rewards of a useful life spent unselfishly in service of others.
“O, Lord, support us all the day long of our troublous life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over and our work is done. Then in thy mercy grant us a safe lodging and a holy rest and peace at the last, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
John Henry Newman
Funeral services were conducted at Bethel A.R.P. Church on September 6, 1984 by Chaplain (Colonel) Leroy R. Priest (U.S.A.F. retired) and long time friend. He spoke words of love and comfort and wisdom in accord with the sad hour. A large number of friends and loved ones stood around his grave attesting their grief over the death of one who occupied a large place in our community, our church, and our hearts.
Such is an outline of the life and exodus of William Junius Jones. He shined as a light for a long time in one place. Peace to his ashes, love and honor to his memory.
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, write Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord from hence forth, yea saith the Spirit that they may rest from their labors and their works do follow them.”
This tribute appeared in the January 24, 1985 edition of The Wilcox American Newspaper.
By W.J. Jones
This is the most difficult paper that I have attempted to write. I knew Mr. Harper from my early childhood upward and I feel today that he influenced my life more than anyone after my father.
Jacob Calhoun Harper was born July 3, 1872 at the family home between Oak Hill and Neenah. His parents were Henry Brooks and Jane Pamela Haddox Harper. To this union were born:
1. Jacob Calhoun Harper
2. Janie Harper, and
3. Julius Henry Harper
His father was married previously to Catherine Madison Haddox and they had several children but this paper is intended to pick up the latter family. According to his own story, he attended the public schools in his day.
The year of 1900 was very important for Mr. Harper for that was the year that Miss Janie Young, who later became his wife, came to Oak Hill as a teacher. Her brother, Prof. John Young was principal and only teacher of 40 odd pupils ranging from the primary department through high school. When he returned home Due West, South Carolina, he persuaded Miss Janie to come to Oak Hill with him to teach the primary grades. It was my privilege to begin school (at five years of age) under Miss Janie. I was so devoted to Sister Julia that I did not want to be left when it came time for her to enter school. I cried to go with her and my parents humored me.
Mr. Jacob C. Harper was happily married to Miss Janie Young September 18, 1901 in the Due West Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. To this union the following children were born:
1. Flora Todd Harper
2. Henry Young Harper
3. Jacob C. Harper, Jr. (Jaki)
Mr. Harper was a man of many strong characteristics. He was a man of strong physique with a big heart full of compassion for his fellowman. He was a successful business man, a devoted family man, a true friend, a good neighbor and a leader in the Community. He served Oak Hill as the first Mayor and was a member of the local school board and a faithful member of his church.
On one occasion he drove Joyce and me to the early ARP Church site near the Robert Hall Hines home on Black Branch which is near Camden. He pointed out the site of the church which had been moved from Hamburg and later was moved to sites nearer Camden.
The Camden ARP Church originated in Uncle Billy Bonner’s home in the year 1895, with 12 Charter members; 11 of whom were members of the Oak Hill Church. The purpose of that meeting was to elect officers. Uncle Clarence Jones and Mr. Joe Miller were elected deacons. They had already purchased the present church building from the Cumberland Presbyterians. Dr. W. W. Orr, who had conducted a revival meeting, together with Dr. H. M. Henry, Pastor of Oak Hill Church, assisted them in their organizational meeting.
Mr. Harper was a handsome man, approximately five feet eleven inches tall and weighing probably between 175 and 190 pounds.
He was a man of keen humor and I would like to relate several stories that I heard him tell more than once. One of these stories that he enjoyed concerned his health during early manhood. He said that he was an incessant smoker and developed a discomfort in his chest. He went to Dr. Jenkins who was located in Shawnee where he had an office. Dr. Jenkins was practically deaf and could communicate only through the use of a horn native to the cow family. Mr. Harper explained to him, after much effort, that he wanted help from some of the medicine Dr. Jenkins had in his office. Dr. Jenkins replied that he had plenty of medicine but none that could help Mr. Harper. Furthermore, he told him that no medicine would help him and if he continued to smoke he wouldn’t last very long. Mr. Harper said Dr. Jenkins scared him so that he never smoked another cigarette in his life. Another story that he told was in relation to Uncle Miller Bonner. It seems that Uncle Miller, in his early youth, was pretty wild and his older brothers held a conference and decided to put Uncle Miller in Uncle Lee’s care at Rosebud. Mr. Harper’s story related that Uncle Lee had Uncle Miller plowing in a field near the highway one Saturday afternoon. Mr. Harper rode by and yelled, quote “Go to it Miller, that’s the way I got my start.” He said that Uncle Miller pulled out his pistol and started shooting at the black mule’s hoofs. Mr. Harper responded by hurrying his little black mule and loped out of sight. The two became fast friends and Uncle Miller did all of Mr. Harper’s legal work.
Early in life Mr. Harper developed an interest in cattle. It was he who brought the first Black Angus cattle to this section. His first market was Selma, to which he drove his cattle on horseback, assisted by two wage hands. They would stop the first night at “The Good Shepherd’s Home” which was near Mr. George Sumner’s Home, about halfway between Selma and Neenah. The cattle were fed and watered there and the owners of “The Good Shepherd’s Home” gave Mr. Harper and his two assistants food and lodging for the night. They would arise before day the next morning and drive the cattle to the Selma market place where they were auctioned off. Later he shipped his cattle to the Chicago Market to be sold, loading them in boxcars at Allenton Depot. He followed by train and was present when the cattle reached the Chicago Auction place and witnessed the sale. I have heard him remark how cold the wind was blowing inward across the city from the nearby lake. Later on he shipped his cattle to New Orleans market to be sold. In later years he shipped to a Montgomery (Ala) Stock Yards and always accompanied them by car. He had a regular driver but on occasions he was driven by his daughter-in-law, Taylor Jones Harper. He was devoted to Taylor and she was devoted to him.
Public School education in Alabama really began in 1918 and was due to the efforts of William F. Feagin, then State Superintendent of Education. An amendment was passed allowing the creation of a State Board of Education who were charged with the responsibility of appointing a superintendent of Education for each city and county in the state. The first Board of Education appointed by the Governor for Wilcox County was composed of the following:
1. Mr. Clay Sheffield of Pine Hill
2. Mr. E. E. Morris of Catherine
3. Dr. Ernest Bonner of Camden
4. Mr. J. T. Adams of Pine Apple
5. Dr. W. P. Roberts of McWilliams
Dr. Roberts moved from the County and Mr. Jacob Harper of Oak Hill was appointed to succeed him. Mr. Harper served until his death.
The first Superintendent of Education (of Wilcox Co.) appointed by the Board was Mr. O. C. Weaver, who was at that time, principal of the school in Camden. As I remember, it was the year 1920 that Mr. Harper was appointed to the Board. Superintendent O. C. Weaver resigned the office of Superintendent effective September 1, 1923 and W. J. Jones was appointed to succeed him and held that office until his retirement July 1, 1965, thus covering a span of 42 years.
There were several applicants for the Superintendent’s office upon Mr. Weaver’s retiring. Notably among these, was Mr. W. V. Luckie who was at that time principal of Wilcox County High School in Camden. Mr. Luckie was a college graduate and had attended Teachers College Columbia University in New York, leading towards a Maters Degree. Mr. Sellers (Sellers) principal of Arlington school, held an A.B. and Masters Degrees from another college. Uncle Ernest Bonner preferred Mr. Will Carothers who was then connected with Perry County Schools. I feel that Mr. Harper was responsible for my being appointed over the other applicants. At the time I had had less training than any of the applicants, having attended Erskine College two years an then transferring to Marion Military Institute where I received an A.B. degree, class of 1916. Mr. Harper made the fight for me and he was more responsible for my appointment than anyone else.
I would like to refer to an amusing story relating to a meeting attended by Mr. Harper, Mr. Adams and myself. These two Board members came early and we were awaiting the arrival of the other members before opening the meeting. Mr. Harper was talking to Mr. Adams of his experience in the hospital and his changing form his usual night apparel. He said that Taylor bought a pair of red pajamas and insisted on his wearing them. Mr. Adams remarked, “ I wouldn’t have put them on, Jake.” Later I visited Mr. Adams in his home recuperating from eye surgery. He was in bed wearing a long night gown and a night cap on his head.
Mr. Harper was an ardent sportsman, particularly enjoying fox-hunting and baseball. He had a kennel of fox-hounds which were penned near his barn. He was accustomed to riding his pastures on horseback all day. About once a week he would come home, have an early supper and enjoy a fox-hunt with his dogs. He generally went alone and listened to the dogs, while in his saddle, as they chased the fox. He also enjoyed baseball and was an ardent supporter and attendant of the local team.
He was a connoisseur of fine meats and he and Miss Janie set a fine table. Very often when he bought meat at a Montgomery steak house, he would buy an equal amount for his pastor, Dr. Henry.
Mr. Harper and Miss Janie both were very active in the work of the Oak Hill ARP Church. Miss Janie was interested in Woman’s Society and served the organization for many years. She was a faithful member of her church and served it well in many capacities. Mr. Harper sang bass in the choir, taught the Ladies Bible and was clerk of the Session for many years. He was a regular attendant at Synod’s Meetings representing his church. After Dr. Henry’s death, he served as chairman of the Pulpit Committee which was successful in bringing Reverend T.B. McBride and Reverend J. Clavin Smith as pastors of Bethel (Oak Hill) Church. He was also active during the pastorate of Rev. S. L. McKay and Rev. Mr. Danhof.
Mr. Harper was a good man, a well rounded individual, a man of action who made a lasting contribution.
April 7, 1983
(Note: I am indebted to Bertha Lee for help in writing this paper.)
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