Nominations are currently being sought for the 2011 class of the Mississippi Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame honors women and men who made noteworthy contributions to the state. Consideration for the Hall of Fame takes place only once every five years and any Mississippian—native or adopted—deceased at least five years may be nominated. The deadline for nominations is October 1, and elections will be held at a special meeting of the MDAH board of trustees in December. Click here for complete nomination guidelines.
This series recognizes members of the Hall of Fame, whose portraits hang in the Old Capitol Museum. Special thanks to Anna Todd, University of Southern Mississippi student and MDAH summer intern, for researching this post.
Laurence C. Jones (1881-1975) was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1882. After graduating from the University of Iowa in 1908, he accepted a teaching position at Utica Institute in Utica, Mississippi, hoping to improve the educational opportunities for disadvantaged black children in the area. Inspired by the achievements of educators such as Booker T. Washington, Jones founded the Piney Woods School in Rankin County in 1909.
Beginning with only three students, he built Piney Woods into one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the nation. Today, the school enrolls more than two hundred fifty students from twenty-four states and three countries. During the sixty-five years he directed the institution, Jones was its most visible representative and a tireless fundraiser. The unprecedented national publicity following Jones’s 1954 appearance on the popular television show “This Is Your Life” resulted in the creation of a large endowment for the school.
Jones’ accomplishments beyond Piney Woods School include work with the State Board of Education on issues pertinent to the instruction of black students. Jones earned doctorates from several colleges and a Masters in Arts from Tuskegee Institute. The author of several books, Jones was also active in the Mississippi Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs and the state Y.M.C.A. In 1970, he received the highest honor of the Boy Scouts of America, the Silver Buffalo Award. He died in 1975 and was inducted into the Mississippi Hall of Fame in 1981.