A! Magazine for the Arts

Dr. Jerry Jones in front of his home, the former house of hisgreat-grandfather.  (photo by Carolyn Wilson)

Dr. Jerry Jones in front of his home, the former house of hisgreat-grandfather. (photo by Carolyn Wilson)

Homecoming results in book about life of Jerry Jones

January 26, 2021

When Dr. Jerry Jones came home to Glade Spring, Virginia, in 2001, his intention was to care for his mother. He didn’t realize his homecoming would launch a book about his family and segregation, “Go and Come Again.”

“When I returned to Glade Spring in 2001, I was surprised that so many people in my immediate area seemed to be genuinely interested in my story. Some Emory & Henry colleagues suggested that I write a book about my experiences.

“Through my writing, my hope is that others will get to know something about my family—how they were educated, how they worked, how they enjoyed life, how they worshiped and how they supported me as I attempted to fulfill my destiny. Prior to 1965, segregation was all that African Americans in this region knew—all that generations had known. This segregation was more at the institutional level—schools, businesses, churches, public transportation—not in the neighborhoods where I grew up. When I returned to Glade Spring in 2001, colleagues, students and neighbors seemed to be genuinely interested in my story—leaving home when segregation was in place and returning more than 30 years later when integration was the norm.

“Contrary to the belief of some people, my childhood was not an unhappy time. Even though my public schools were separate and unequal, I still learned a lot. For example, my grammar skills came from Glade Spring ‘Colored’ Elementary School and Bristol’s Douglass High School. I had lots of friends, black and white, and was able to reconnect with many of them when I moved back home. In my early years, the church was the focal point for black communities. By age 10, I had taught myself how to play the piano for Ebenezer, an historic Methodist church in Glade Spring that was erected in 1880. (I still play there and other places.) By age 12, I had my own gospel choir; we traveled extensively throughout the region,” Jones says.

Jones lived in Glade Spring until he went to Petersburg’s Virginia State University where he discovered that very few students knew anything about Southwest Virginia. “Like many residents of Virginia today, the belief was that the state’s southwestern region began and ended at Roanoke,” he says. He earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Virginia State University and his doctorate in education from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia.

“Go and Come Again” begins with a focus on the history and culture of Glade Spring, Virginia, during the era of segregated schools and Jim Crow. The first chapters deal with the various struggles of his family, selected teachers and students, and the early 1960s. He also discusses his experiences at a historically black college and working as an educator.

He also writes about his life. Jones is the son of a single mother, and he has become a writer, church musician, community leader and teacher. As an educator, he shares his views on the public-school experience of his grandmother, mother and his own.

But perhaps the most personal portions of the books are about caring for his mother. Jones was the sole caregiver for his mother until she died at the age of 93. When he came home to care for her, he moved into his childhood home, which his great grandfather, a former slave, built.

“This has always been home, even when I worked in Richmond and Baltimore. My great-grandfather had this house built for about $500 in 1870. Many say I resemble him; my mom used to say my personality was like his. The emotional upheaval comes when something is broken, needs repair or replacing, and quality workers and repair persons are so difficult to find; many never show up. My role models are local folks — carpenters and other skilled laborers — who show up, do a good job, and don’t try to cheat you,” he says.

“Go and Come Again” was first printed in the fall of 2011 by a company that recently went out of business. This led Jones to a new publisher, Outskirts Press, a Colorado-based book publisher.

His book was featured in the New York Times Sunday Book Review and will be featured at the Los Angeles Festival of Books in April. He says when he learned about being in the Sunday Book Review, “I cried – a joyful cry, not a sad one.”

This is not his first book. His first book is a college textbook on programming logic.

“While working at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia, faculty were often visited by textbook sales representatives. One of these book reps asked me which currently used book I disliked the most. Come to find out, the book which I was berating was published by her company, then known as Prentice-Hall, Inc. My honesty about her book started a relationship that ended up producing ‘Structured Programming Logic,’ used by JSRCC and other institutions.

“When I started teaching high school business classes in Baltimore, Maryland, in the early 1970s, computer education was very new, and lab manuals were overly technical and hard to follow. One author, whose writing style was better than most, was Thomas Cashman from California. In later years, Cashman and other authors held summer conferences for computer educators at various collegiate locations: University of Memphis, Indiana University, Purdue University, and other locations. I attended many of these summer institutes and got to know Cashman, other authors, and teachers from across the country,” he says.

Jones teaching career spans 50 years. His first teaching job in 1969was as a high school business instructor in Baltimore, Maryland.From 1974 until 2001, he taught computer courses at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia.He has taught at Emory & Henry College, Emory, Virginia, since 2001. His responsibilities include coordinating the computer proficiency exams, teaching the computer literacy courses and teaching a first-year student seminar, “Racial Identity in Context.”

Jones has played piano at numerous area churches,events on the campus of Emory & Henry, and events sponsored by Abingdon’s Highlands Festival: hisspecialtyis gospel and other church music. Additionally, he is a certified lay speaker in the Methodist church, a former member of the Glade Spring town council, local African-American historian and organizer of various civic and church events.

For more information about Jones and his book, visit www.jjonesgladespring.com.