J . McHenry Jones, one of the preeminent African American leaders of the city of Wheeling and later of the state of West Virginia, was born in 1859 in Gallipolis, Ohio. He graduated from Pomeroy (Ohio) High School as valedictorian. This was five years before integrated education was legal in Ohio -- he had persuaded the local school board to give him special permission to continue his education in the 'white' school. Even before graduating he had begun a teaching career. In 1882 he came to Wheeling where he taught at Lincoln School, eventually becoming the principal of the school.
In Wheeling he became active in the Republican Party (in 1896 he gave the speech seconding the nomination of George W. Atkinson for governor), in the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, and was frequently called upon as a speaker and master of ceremonies at local events. In 1896 he published a novel, Hearts of Gold at his own expense.
Jones was named principal of the West Virginia Colored Institute (today's West Virginia State College) in 1898. He was responsible for major period of growth and improvement for the school. He became one of the leaders of the state's African American community, and influential in public affairs generally. He was editor of a weekly newspaper, The Advocate, published in Charleston.
J. McHenry Jones died September 22, 1909 at his home in Institute, West Virginia.
The above is primarily taken from "J. McHenry Jones: Pioneer Black Educator, 1858-1909," by Ancella Radford Bickley, which appeared as a chapter in Honoring Our Past: Proceedings of the First Two Conferences on West Virginia's Black History, edited by Joe William Trotter and Ancella Radford Bickley, 1991.
A picture of J. McHenry Jones
Below, Ohio County Public Library is proud to present Hearts of Gold on the world wide web. Obvious typos in the original have been corrected.
West Virginia University Press will reissue the book in February 2010.
The book is now also available from OCPL in Mobipocket format for use on the Kindle or other reader. Click here to download it.