Retired School Teacher
Only African-American resident of Williamstown, Ky.
Della Jones was born July 7, 1903 in Williamstown (Grant County) Kentucky. Her parents were Richard and Sarah Lewis. Starting in a one-room school house in Mill Springs (Wayne County), she began her career as a teacher at the age of 19. Later she taught in Crittenden (Grant County), then spent four years teaching at Idlewild (Boone County). Among the fifteen students she recalls teaching there are Lutie Rice, now a resident of Elsmere (Kenton County), and her twin sister, Nannie Dudley. Mrs. Jones recounts her friendship with Rosella French Sleet Porterfield and Nellie Green Lewis, who were also school teachers.
A proud graduate of Lincoln Institute (Shelby County), Mrs. Jones taught after completing her studies there. Then in 1929 married Bradley Jones, who for over forty years was her loving companion until his death in 1969. She had met her future husband when she was just out of high school and teaching at Crittenden. She describes the early years of their marriage during the depression as full of struggle, but they weathered it with determination. She held a dream, however, to continue her education. After being a housewife for thirteen years, she returned to school at Kentucky State College.
While t Kentucky State she taught at New Liberty (Owen County), then went to Cynthiana (Harrison County) to be near a seriously ill friend. Finally, she took a position at Owenton (Owen County) where because of hiring discrimination following school integration, she was transferred to the school library. She retired from that position in 1974.
Mrs. Jones remembers that being an older student at Kentucky State she was regarded as “somewhat of an oddity on campus,” but she kept her eye on the goal. After seventeen years of study, including summer and extension classes, she proudly received her degree in 1957. She fondly recalls her husband’s encouragement throughout those years and his sending her letters weekly and candy monthly when she was in academic residence.
Mrs. Jones currently is the only African-American resident of Williamstown, and the only surviving member of Ogg Chapel C. M. E. Church, founded circa 1879. Her father was one of the trustees. The original church building was replaced with the present structure which was dedicated in 1950. The church is next door to Mrs. Jones’ residence, and, although not in use, is maintained by her.
In spite of some physical damage, she is cheerful, warm, friendly, an avid reader, and stimulating conversationalist. One might say she is the belle of Williamstown, because everyone there knows, loves, and respects her. Her home is filled with books and memorabilia cleb4aing her life and African-American history. Among them are two pictures painted by two of her students with paints made out of clay collected from a pond near their one-room school house, a testimony to her resourcefulness. The extent to which she is revered is exemplified by the community’s celebration of her 90th birthday with a surprise party.
Mrs. Della Jones. A remarkable lady!
By Mary Northington, from the Northern Kentucky African-American Heritage Task Force Newsletter, Winter, 1995.