|Posted by Anne Siren on October 19, 2012 at 3:10 PM|
Editor’s note: Last week The Pelican profiled Robert Holmes, the other Pompano Beach gentleman designated a Pioneer by Broward County Group. Holmes and James Jones are both educators and friends. They have been neighbors for over 50 years pioneering Pompano Beach together, but because each has a significant history, The Pelican decided to give each man space for his own story.
James Jones arrived in Pompano in 1956, mathematics degree in hand from Bethune-Cookman College, ready to teach math at Blanche Ely High School
He recalls getting off the train at Dixie Highway and what was then Hammondville Road, a dirt road upon which he walked to his cousin’s house where he would stay. “I had been a teacher intern at Blanche Ely the year before and was pleased to have a job in this farming community. My students all helped on farms after school and on weekends. Ours was a totally segregated community. Everyone seemed to be involved in churches, and I joined them. I have been involved with Antioch Missionary Baptist Church for many years, serving as a deacon, trustee board chairman and financial director.”
“When I turned 80, I made up my mind to be supportive, but no longer take leadership roles. Young people must begin to take over. We’ve trained many capable men and women. They are doing good jobs in the church , community and city.”
He continues, “The changes in this city are phenomenal. We’ve grown from a farming town to a metropolitan city. I have stayed in my first neighborhood by choice because I have spent most of my rewarding and fulfilling adult life here and I have stayed to give back. The people I have had the opportunity to work with, mainly students, have grown and many are now fine contributing neighbors and residents giving their time and talents as we did. I have enjoyed being a role model to these young people and in turn I believe I have impacted their lives in a positive way. I know they have had a positive influence in my life.”
He says things have improved for the African Americans in Pompano Beach. “We are very much a part of our city’s government and we are represented as a district. The CRA is finally acting and it’s a beginning. We’ve seen some improvements in our community, but not as fast as we’d like. The plans sound good. I’m eager to see them become a reality. We must be patient, but that’s not easy because we’ve been patient for a long time.”
Currently, I’m a walker. I walk three miles three times a week with Commissioner Poitier who is a former student and one of many I am very proud of.”
Jones began his professional career as an educator with the Broward County School Board under the leadership of the esteemed Mrs. Blanche Ely. He says, “During my time at Ely, my growth was immense. I chaired the mathematics department, served as student council advisor, faculty chairperson, officer of the assistant administrative council and became Teacher of the Year. My 12 years at Blanche Ely shaped my educational philosophy in subsequent leadership positions. While there I earned a Master of Education degree in Guidance and Counseling from Florida Atlantic University.”
Jones went on to become guidance director at Everglades Middle School, Dean of Boys at Plantation High School, assistant principal at Pompano Beach High School and in 1980 he became principal at Ely High School where he remained until retirement in 1992.
He became the longest tenure principal at Blanche Ely, exceeded only by the school’s founder, Mrs. Blanche General Ely.
In those 12 years, Jones supervised the infusion of students from Pompano Beach High School which was closed, helped develop and implement Ely’s magnet program, increased academic and athletic scholarships and was honored to have the school auditorium named after him.
After retiring, he established the James L. Jones Scholarship Fund and subsequently awarded 24 scholarships to deserving students. While serving on Pompano’s Education Advisory Board, he helped to advance the city’s Blanche Ely Scholarship program for academically disadvantaged students from a two year to a four year program. In 2009, he was honored to be recognized as Man Of The Year by the Pompano City Commission.
Jones has been married to Thelma Black Jones for 50 years. Their daughter, Angella Jones Vann is a department planning administrator with the city of West Palm Beach. He says “Life has been a rewarding and fulfilling journey for me.” And now he can add Broward County Pioneer to his long list of impressive titles.
Congratulations and thank you for impacting so many lives with your shared knowledge and energy.