Pueblo County, Colorado
Contributed by Jean, Gracie, Phyllis and Karen.
Pueblo Chieftain 9-15-1994 - Helen Jones: A Century of Insight - Helen Jones, just two weeks shy of her 100th birthday, is a pensive conversationalist — intelligent, careful and, by her own admission, "not very politically informed." Mrs. Jones lives alone in an elegant, spacious home near the City Park golf course, a monument of sorts to the hard work put in over the years by her and her late husband, mortician Alva C. Jones. Looking at some of the not-so-bright lights of America's prominent black community, Mrs. Jones allows that it would be better if they — like she, she says — would "stick to their own." For example, former football mega-star O.J. Simpson — accused of murdering his white wife and her male companion — is guilty "of abandoning his own culture," said Mrs. Jones, who added reflectively that she and her husband made a decent life "by staying with our own race," even though he "had to fight early on to get the black (mortuary) business in Pueblo." The near-centenarian fends off most political questions to her now-absent goddaughter, former Puebloan Gretta Knight. She is the wife of South Carolina State Sen. Theo Walker Mitchell of Greenville, S.C. He made an unsuccessful run for the governor's post in that state in 1990. "Now, she'd know a lot more about political things than I do. I just kept the home fires burning while Mr. Jones was in the public eye," says Mrs. Jones, who has been honored by the NAACP and the Pueblo African-American Concern Organization for "a lifetime of community service." A perceptible air of sadness crops up as the woman tries to think of an adequate, believable black leader in the 1990s. "Oh, I don't know," she said, looking out the front window of her home . . . maybe someone in the southland would know . . . maybe my goddaughter would know." But she knows well the effect that the late Martin Luther King had on both the black and white communities in the 1960s: "Oh, he was a fine man, maybe a colored messiah for his time. It sure wouldn't hurt if we had one today. "I got to meet him, you know, at a morticians' convention in Cincinnati, and his wife, too, in Denver, and his son here at a lecture in Pueblo. A fine man . . . responsible for big changes in the way colored people are received and perceived in America." "Colored?" Not black? Not African American? Not Afro-American? "I was born and raised in Ohio, was educated there and worked in the southland (Albany, Ga.) and spent more than half my life in Pueblo. That's all I know — I don't know anything about Africa. "'Colored?' We're all some kind of color; I don't see anything bad about being called colored." Mrs. Jones admits that, all in all, she didn't live with the worst part of discrimination as it has played out in America. In Pueblo, in decades past, she and her husband were asked to leave theaters and restaurants, but that's a bygone if painful memory. She has mixed recollections of the race riots of the '60s, saying both that "they were a terrible thing" and that "they helped focus America's attention on the way we were treated. A lot of people didn't understand. And the sight of colored people being attacked by dogs in the southland . . . that helped other people understand, too." Friends will gather at Mrs. Jones' home on Sept. 25 for an open house honoring her 100th birthday, a birthday that, until recently, she didn't think much about, she says. "I have a friend who thinks it just marvelous that I'd live to be 100. Well, maybe it is. I don't know anyone who is 100. I've been blessed with good health." Indeed. Although there is no approved stereotype of what a century-old woman should look like, or how she should act, Mrs. Jones wouldn't fit into anyone's preconceived notions of old age. She's bright, mobile, independent, enthusiastic, handsome, gaily dressed and — maybe a part of the reason she's endured so well — "not very politically informed."
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