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Sun, 05.09.1920

Edward H. Jones, Businessman born

Edward H. Jones

Edward H. Jones was born on this date in 1920. He was a Black businessman and community activist.

Born in Gastonia, NC, he grew up greatly admiring his family, particularly his grandfather James Hoffman, a stonemason, and his mother, Nettie, who raised her family alone after his father left in 1925.  He also took pride in the accomplishments of his brother Jimmy who started a Boy Scout Troop for Black youths in North Carolina when the BSA was segregated.

Jones graduated from Highland H.S. and was a State Championship debating team member. In that title match, procedural errors caused neither Highland nor Fayetteville to accept the winner's cup.

Jones was a Sunday School superintendent and clerk at St. Paul’s Baptist Church, then joined the Army Air Corps in 1940. It was during this time from a farmhouse near Tuskegee, AL; he helped put in place the administration of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, the Tuskegee Airmen. When he left the military in 1945, he had become the first Black man to achieve the non-commissioned rank of warrant officer, junior grade.

After serving his country, Jones graduated from Temple University and soon became the first Black Internal Revenue Service agent for the eastern district of Pennsylvania. From there (in 1961), he was the first Black salesman for Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) and, two years later, was the first Black in management at ACME Markets.  It was here that he was their credit manager for 258 stores in the mid-Atlantic region. In 1967, he went to Africa as a business manager of Nkumbi International College in Tanzania, overseeing the institute's project to supply secondary education for political refugees from South Africa, Angola, and other countries.

Throughout his travels, Jones enjoyed learning to sing hymns in the dialects of whatever country he was in, a natural return to a childhood love of music. Jones was in his late 50s when he courted his wife Lorna with verse, flowers, and tender songs from the 1920s and '30s.  They were married in 1980, and she relocated to Philadelphia, but they moved to Minneapolis in 1982 to care for her mother.

Away from his career, Jones devoted his life to breaking employment barriers for Blacks in civilian and military life. After suffering from Alzheimer's for several years, Edward Jones died on April 22, 2002.

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