by Robert Earl Houston
Dr. E. Edward Jones, Sr., who was affectionately called “The Tall Angel,” who dynamically and fearlessly led the National Baptist Convention of America, Incorporated, International, went home to be with the Lord today, June 9, 2016 in Shreveport, Louisiana. Dr. Jones was 85 years old.
Dr. Jones was born in born in DeRidder, Louisiana in 1931 to Rev. David Jesse and Daisy Jones. His father pastored two church in Louisiana and his mother was a homemaker. He attended Grambling State University. At Grambling he met and later married his beloved Leslie M. Alexander, who were classmates who dated during his junior year and married in August 1952. The Joneses had four children: sons Deryl N. Jones and E. Edward Jones II and daughters Carolyn N. Jones-Haygood and Donna N. Jones-Hassan. They also have nine grandchildren.He received his B.S. in Elementary Education from Grambling; and his B.A. in Religion and Philosophy from Bishop College in Dallas, TX in 1961.
In December 1959, he was called to the pulpit of Galilee Baptist Church in Shreveport. He filed a lawsuit to allow his daughter to attend a then all white school and as a result of his lawsuit, the public schools were desegregated. He would become a leader in the Civil Rights Movement and hosted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on several occasions.
Under his leadership, Galilee Baptist Church became a powerhouse socially and denominationally. He led Galilee into construction of not only a sprawling church edifice, but housing for residents, and purchased several buildings and developed them as well, including the home of the NBCAI. He was president of both Galilee Majestic Arms, Inc. and Galilee Eden Gardens, Inc.
A very gifted preacher. Dr. Jones literally travelled the world preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He became a fixture at the NBCAI in regular sessions and late night preaching. Dr. Jones became Vice President under the leadership of President James Carl Sams of Jacksonville, Florida. He hosted the convention in several settings and after the President and two Vice Presidents died, he became President of the NBCAI in the year that he also served as host pastor.
Under his leadership, he created the CAP Program (Covenant Action Partners) to involve member churches financially to undergird the work of the Convention, which led to financial support for the Boards of the Convention. He presided during a stormy period of the Convention’s history, which led to the creation of the Convention-led Congress and NBCA Publishing House, which created curriculum for use by the member churches. He reorganized several auxiliaries and created a Headquarters Office and staff that the Convention had never seen before. The Convention became a unified body under the leadership of President Jones, whose influence continued even after he stepped down as President after serving from 1985 to 2003. The Convention established a school in Africa, in his honor.
Dr. Jones was a lifelong member of the NAACP, Alpha Phi Alpha; Served on the Governor’s Commission on Race Relations and Civil Rights; Board Member, Baptist World Alliance; Board Member, Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors; Grambling State University Foundation Board Member.
He was named by Ebony magazine as one of 100 most influential black Americans, 1986-2003; Alpha Phi Alpha, National Award for Outstanding Service, 1986; Grambling State University Hall of Fame, 1986; Northwest Louisiana Hall of Fame, 1992; awarded numerous honorary degrees.
Viewed as a man with a vision, Jones’s passion for helping people is evident by his astounding accomplishments. Surrounding his church in Shreveport is a small city of apartments and buildings known as Galilee City, a partial fulfillment of his dream. Beginning in 1985 and 1990, through Galilee Baptist Church, Jones secured funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), for two supportive housing developments for the elderly and handicapped called Galilee Majestic Arms and Galilee Gardens. His next project, one that was spawned within him early in his career as a schoolteacher, was a recreational complex for youth that included sports facilities, a computer lab, and an educational program. His faith-based initiatives didn’t end there, however. Jones saw further needs within his community, and took further steps towards meeting those needs.
In 2004 Jones secured further funding from the City of Shreveport, Bank One, Fannie Mae, HUD, and the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency to build a 76-unit apartment complex for low-and middle-income working residents called Galilee City Apartments. This partnership not only helped to renew a run-down neighborhood, but also provided quality housing for the disadvantaged. “It’s exciting when our financial resources make a significant difference for working families,” said Steve Walker, president of Bank One in Shreveport. All of the buildings, along with the church, a health center, and some of the NBCA offices, cover approximately 31 acres of the Galilee Baptist property. “Ministers are trumpeters for the message of change. Housing and health are two areas where the black community is most hurting,” Jones told Dana DiFilippo in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
To a generation of preachers, Dr. Jones was the role model. He was an unabashed manuscript preacher with articulation, color and imagination. Many of us remember him preaching and pulling on those suspenders and closing his sermons. He was not only an important man, but he never considered himself too important where he couldn’t fellowship. He would be seen in fellowship in the hallways, speaking with old friends of decades and making new friends of young preachers across the country.
In the 1970s, he was the guest of Dr. O.B. Williams and the General Baptist Convention of the Northwest. We were tremendously blessed by his preaching and I had the privilege of being at the tables, selling his manuscripts. Dr. Jones walked up to the table, introduced himself to us (I was a teenager then) and gave me a free copy of the manuscript, “A Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” I would see him on several occasions throughout the years and he never forgot my name or who I was or where I was from. “Robert Earl, how you doing?”
He was not just a leader of a denominational body. He was a student and teacher of the church. We learned how to dress like Dr. Jones. We learned how to stand over the pulpit and yet be communicative and relevant to our congregations like Dr. Jones. He was a singer. He was a musician. He was writer. He was a developer. He was an activist.
Most of all, he was a friend of preachers. We have lost a friend this day.
Biographical information from: Encyclopedia.com.