JANS - On Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012, at Holy Family Catholic Church in Jackson, MS, John W. Jones was presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service as a Montford Point marine during World War II.
In 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order literally forcing Congress and the Marine Corps to accept and train Blacks for duty in this the most elite and highly trained group of fighting men in the world.
The training camp for marines was at Camp Lejuene in North Carolina. However, a special camp was created for black marines near a little town called Jacksonville, thus becoming Montford Point. Black marines were trained separately from whites and during this era less than 20,000 blacks actually enlisted and served in the Marine Corps. The honoree, John Jones, enlisted and arrived at Montford Point in 1943.
While people were sitting inside the church enjoying the piano playing from Ms. Ernestine Ross, standing outside the church in their dress blues awaiting the arrival of the honoree were three U.S. marines armed with a certificate and the Congressional Gold Medal to be presented during the ceremony.
Jones 87, who is not in the best of health and unable to walk, was wheeled into the church by his nephew Joe Lewis. In the midst of all the excitement, he was unable to identify and understand exactly what people were saying as they greeted him upon his entry. However, there was no confusion when he was approached by Mrs. Margaret Lewis. He immediately said, "Well, there is my beautiful sister."
Jones, dressed in his blue suit, sat alongside his wife, Rubye W. Jones, also in a wheelchair. They were surrounded by family members and friends as Father Jerome Kelly, the pastor of Holy Family, gave the invocation and officially opened the ceremony. The marines marched to the podium, and after an explanation surrounding the Montford Point Marines, began to read the certificate and approached Jones presenting him with his medal.
John Jones was holding a picture of his brother, Melvin Jones, also sworn in as a marine in 1942, making him among the first group of Blacks to arrive at Montford Point. After the presentation, a letter from his family doctor Robert Smith was read and the benediction was given.
One of the first people to congratulate Jones was Rep. Earle S. Banks who sat with the family during the ceremony. As the piano played patriotic music, person after person walked up to greet Jones and his family.
After returning home from the Marine Corps, John Jones made a name for himself in the insurance industry, becoming an executive with Security Life Insurance Company. He twice received the top award from the National Insurance Association in recognition of his outstanding service. He is widely known for his humor and has often served as the toastmaster for several organizations. Married for over 60 years, Jones has two children, Diana Jones Criddle of Chicago, IL and Carl Micheal Jones of Jackson, MS.
"This is a great day," said Joe Lewis, nephew of the honoree. "For him to live long enough to receive this medal and for my mother to be able to witness this day is long overdue but greatly appreciated." Lewis went on to say that his daughter, who is presently an active marine, was highly instrumental in making this day happen. "She wouldn't let it go until it happened," said Lewis, "and I thank God for her."
Lewis went on to say that although he is pleased with his uncle being recognized, he is equally disturbed that others have not received their proper recognition. Lewis said, "A good family friend, Zachery Taylor, who is alive and living in Jackson, has yet to receive his medal, and although some may be deceased, they should be recognized as well."
Also present at the ceremony was a close friend of the Jones family, Vivian Woods, whose husband Clarence was a Montford Point marine. "He along with others should be acknowledged through their survivors," said Lewis.