‘Chairman Jones’ remembered

Published 1:32 pm Saturday, July 4, 2009

GARYSBURG—As July 6th nears, Anna Jones can’t help but think of her father.

That date will mark 25 years since his passing in a tragic farm accident.

James H. Jones wasn’t your ordinary farmer. Perhaps he was better known as “Chairman Jones,” a moniker, no doubt, from his time on the Northampton County Board of Education.

Mr. Jones was the first African American to serve on board.

Born to a family of sharecroppers in 1916 on Longview Plantation, Mr. Jones learned the importance of education when his own was cut short because of work and Jim Crow Laws.

Jones said her father rejected his plight and eventually became an independent. His appointment to the Board of Education came in 1971 and he was voted chairman 10 years later.

He became an advocate and leader of education in the county. Jones said her father pushed for an equal education for blacks, and worked for a better education for all.

This is what Jones is trying to capture in her documentary, “Chairman Jones: A Portrait of My Father,” which is sponsored by the Southern Documentary Fund. Jones is working with a crew from Tree House Productions, based in Hillsborough.

“Despite his legacy of leadership and service, this film project is the first attempt to document Jones’ impact on Northampton County and North Carolina,” said Jones in a recent e-mail to the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.

She wrapped up the first bout of filming in May, after sitting down to interview several of those in Northampton County who knew her father on a personal and professional level.

As Jones gears up to film the second leg of the documentary, she’s asking the public for their help once again. Since that time, Jones has received e-mails and support in response to the news of the documentary.

“The public’s participation with visuals and personal anecdotes are essential to the telling of his story,” she said. “I have already received a few very positive responses from the public.”

Jones has also received a few photos of her father from the 1940’s when he was working on a farm.

She is still seeking those who remember her father, his work and his impact on the county, including colleagues, average citizens, business/professionals, educators, students and farmers.

Jones said former students of Northampton County Schools and parents of former students are encouraged to contribute photographs or video footage and other memorabilia.

Financial donations are welcomed as well. Jones can be contacted at (252)-537-5527.

Tax deductible donations can be sent to: Southern Documentary Fund, Chairman Jones Project, 762 Ninth Street, Box 574, Durham, NC, 27705. For more information visit www.southerndocumentaryfund.org