GLADE SPRING, Va. (WJHL) – Jerry Jones, a Glade Spring native and professor at Emory and Henry College for two decades and counting, grew up in a very different time.
Being born in 1947 as a black man in Southwest Virginia, segregation was the norm. In fact, Jones attended grade school in an all-black environment and even went on to attend an all-black college. He said it wasn’t odd, it was just what they knew.
In 1953, he attended the “colored only elementary” in Glade Spring. Jones said the school taught grades 1-7 with one teacher in charge of all instruction and a little more than 20 kids making up the entire student body during his time there.
The school officially closed in 1965 due to integration, but the abandoned building where he once attended classes still stands today.
Jones continued on to grades 8-12 at an all-black high school as well. While the elementary school was a 15-minute walk from his home, that wasn’t the case for his high school.
“If you were black and lived in Washington County, from 1948 to 1965, you went to Douglass High School in Bristol,” said Jones.
With no interstate in 1960 and a number of stops on the way to the school, Jones said it took a minimum of an hour and 15 minutes to get to and from school.
Despite the long commute, Jones went on to graduate from Douglass High School and attended what was known then as Virginia State College, where he later earned his degree in business education.
A role in education was more than just a career to Jones; it was a passion. While he’s spent over 50 years as an educator, some of his best lessons are carried out in his book “Go and Come Again,” which was published back in 2011 but has gained attention in recent months from a few outlets, including the New York Times.
Having been raised by only his mother, she was an inspiration to him to succeed and the inspiration for the title of the book, as well as some of the experiences mentioned in his book. It focuses on education, his own experience, his mother’s and other accounts from across Southwest Virginia.
“I wanted to let people know what education was like in my day, what education was like in my mom’s day and grandmother’s day, so that’s part of the story,” said Jones.
Jones said the focus of his book is to encourage people not to forget their past. One issue he said he’s seen in today’s times is younger children not communicating with their parents and grandparents beyond a simple conversation. He’s urging younger generations to dig deeper and learn about the past, especially in their own families.
Experiences like the ones Jones had in the field of education shaped him into the educator he is today. While he left Glade Spring for a number of years, he’s back and fully emerged in his own family’s history.
He lives in his family home, built by his great grandfather back in 1870, full of memories and history.
While this article gives a basic outline of Jones’ life, his entire detailed story can be found here.