Born in 1882 in Missouri, Laurence Jones was from a family of educators. He graduated from the University of Iowa and accepted his first teaching job in Utica, Mississippi. In 1909, he was encouraged by a church in D’Lo, Mississippi, to start a school for poor black children in the area. He founded Piney Woods Country Life School in nearby rural Rankin County outdoors under a cedar tree with a fallen log as a desk. The first school building was an abandoned sheep shed. The curriculum included vocational as well as academic subjects. The school was chartered in 1913. Teachers, black and white, worked for little or no pay. The school managed a farm which supplied food as well as agricultural and carpentry experience for the students, who constructed many of the facilities on campus. Jones’s wife, Grace, a teacher, was instrumental in helping him build support for Piney Woods. They traveled the country talking of the school’s benefits and raising money, which funded an endowment. Jones was widely recognized for his educational leadership. He died in 1975.