Although he retired from competitive golf in 1930, at age twenty-eight, Bobby Jones is widely regarded as the greatest golfer of all time. While earning three college degrees Jones played golf as an amateur, winning thirteen of the twenty-one national championships he entered in the United States and Great Britain between 1923 and 1930. In 1930 he achieved the golfing "Grand Slam" by winning the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open, British Amateur, and British Open Championships in the same year. He surprised the world by retiring from competition soon afterward. In retirement he wrote books and articles on golf and made a series of instructional films, while practicing law. In 1931 he helped to design and build the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. The club's tournament soon came to be known as the Masters Tournament. The Masters is one of four tournaments known as the modern Grand Slam, along with the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the American Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Championship. Jones died in 1971 after suffering for twenty-three years with a rare central nervous system disease, syringomyelia. He received numerous awards and honors, including induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.
Robert Tyre "Bobby" Jones, Jr., named for his grandfather, was born March 17, 1902, in the Grant Park neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia. He was the second son of Robert Purmedus Jones, an attorney who had played baseball at the University of Georgia, and Clara Merrick Thomas Jones. At age five, he and a friend laid out a small golf course in the front yard, and Jones played with a set of clubs cut down to fit his size. Soon afterward, the family moved to the suburb of East Lake, where they lived next to the East Lake golf course. There, young Jones watched the head professional golfer, Stewart Maiden, and learned to play by imitating his swing. These were the only "lessons" Jones ever had. Maiden coached him informally as the talented young golfer began to win local tournaments.
Jones played in his first U.S. Open Championship in 1920, at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, where he
tied for eighth place. In 1921 he played his first British Amateur at Hoylake, England, where he was eliminated after the fourth round. From there he entered the British Open on the Old Course at St. Andrew's, Scotland, considered the birthplace of golf, but he withdrew in frustration after the eleventh hole after missing a putt.
Jones did not win a national contest until 1923. At age twenty-one, he won the U.S. Open Championship on Long Island, New York, beating both amateurs and professionals. According to Newsweek, he later recalled moving through the congratulatory crowd and thinking, "I've won a championship. At last, I've won one." But this tournament was only the beginning of a successful period when Jones would win a total of thirteen major championships over the next seven years. By 1926 he became the first person to win both the U.S. and British Opens in the same year. On returning home he was treated to a ticker-tape parade down Broadway in New York City, the first of several he would receive. He won the U.S. Amateur in 1924, 1925, 1927, 1928, and 1930. He again won the U.S. Open in 1929 and 1930, disqualifying himself on a one-stroke technicality in 1925, adding to his reputation as a gentleman and sportsman. He also won the British Open in 1926, 1927, and 1930 and the British Amateur in 1930.
Winning all four major championships in 1930 gave him the golfing Grand Slam, an accomplishment that Jones was the first to achieve. Jones also became the first man in history to break par in the U.S. Open, winning with a score of 287, one under par.
Jones and his two major rivals during the 1920s, Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen, were known as the Three Musketeers because they took all the major titles in the United States and Great Britain. Jones also led his team to victory five times in the Walker Cup competition, inaugurated in 1921 as a tournament between amateur teams from the United States and Great Britain.
Even though golfing great Jack Nicklaus eventually broke Jones's record of thirteen major championships, no one has accomplished what Jones did within such a short period of time. In 1950 an Associated Press poll found Jones's Grand Slam to be "the Supreme Athletic Achievement of the Century."
Jones was an average-size man, standing 5'8" tall and weighing about 165 pounds at the height of his golfing career. He had a clean-cut, boyish manner that made him the favorite of golfing fans. He did not like to practice golf and played on average about eighty rounds a year.
Obviously gifted, Jones had superb timing and a long, powerful stroke. He wasted no time on the golf course and averaged about three seconds to address and strike the ball. He played with a set of clubs that were mismatched but chosen for their perfect feel. Jones named his favorite putter Calamity Jane.
Although his record-breaking scores indicated he could be a successful pro golfer, he remained an amateur, probably believing that his nervous temperament made him ill-suited to turning professional. In his youth, Jones had a fiery temper and was known to throw golf clubs when he was dissatisfied with a shot. It is said that he became extremely stressed before and during a competition, sometimes to the point of vomiting, and lost as much as eighteen pounds during a tournament.
Once Jones learned to control his temper, he always appeared calm and focused on the golf course. Considerate of opponents and spectators, he earned a reputation for being the consummate gentleman. He was also a very private person and extremely modest.
Contribution to the Game
During the years that Bobby Jones played amateur golf, the sport experienced a phenomenal increase in popularity. The number of weekend golfers doubled, and new golf courses were constructed throughout the United States. The middle class began to enjoy golf as spectators, a position once reserved for the wealthy.
After giving up his amateur status and retiring from competitive golf in 1930, at age twenty-eight, Jones was in a position to earn money from his golfing career. He made a series of instructional films in which he taught actors how to play golf. He also designed the first matched set of iron golf clubs for Spalding and Company, in 1932. Jones had already published his first book on the subject, Down the Fairway in 1927. From 1939 to 1969 he published four more books on playing golf.
Augusta National Golf Club and Final Years
In 1931 Jones formed a partnership with Wall Street broker Clifford Roberts and announced plans to build the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. With the help of architect Alister Mackenzie, Jones fulfilled his dream of designing a golf course. It opened in 1933, and Roberts suggested that Augusta host its own major tournament. He wanted to call it the Masters Tournament, but Jones thought the name too lofty. Instead, he called it the Augusta National Invitation Tournament. As the Augusta Invitation grew in reputation, by 1938 Jones agreed that it should be called the Masters. Jones played in the tournament until 1949, when his health had deteriorated to the point that he could no longer play. However, he continued to preside over the tournament, finally attending with the help of crutches and braces and enduring intense pain.
After two back surgeries, it was discovered in 1956 that Jones suffered from the rare central nervous system disease syringomyelia. His condition worsened year by year until he was confined to a wheelchair and could not even turn the pages of a book. In 1958, Jones received his greatest honor when the people of St. Andrew's, Scotland, awarded him the Freedom of the City and the Royal Burgh of St. Andrew's awards in what has been called the most moving ceremony in the history of golf. Jones died of an aneurysm on December 18, 1971, at age 69. At his request, a small, private funeral was held.
Golf historians and experts agree that Jones's sportsmanship is his greatest legacy. Winning the Masters Tournament has also become the most prestigious award in golf, and Jones's books and films have been reprinted and are still used as guides to playing the game. Although he rejected the idea of any monument being made to him—considering the Augusta Golf Club his memorial—a statue of Jones created after his death graced the lobby of a major hotel in Augusta until 2002, when it was moved to the Augusta Golf and Gardens as part of a centennial celebration of his birth. The statue is now the first to greet visitors to the gardens and joins sculptures of Arnold Palmer , Jack Nicklaus, Byron Nelson, Raymond Floyd, and Ben Hogan .
SELECTED WRITINGS BY JONES:
(With O. B. Keeler) Down the Fairway: The Golf Life and Play of Robert T. Jones, Jr., Minton, Balch & Company, 1927.
|1902||Born March 17 in Atlanta, Georgia|
|1907||Begins playing golf|
|1911||Wins junior championship cup of Atlanta Athletic Club|
|1915||Wins East Lake Country Club and Druid Hills Country Club championships|
|1916||Wins Georgia State Amateur Championship; competes in U.S. Amateur at Merion Cricket Club, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as event's youngest competitor|
|1917||Wins Southern Amateur|
|1919||Is runner-up in both Canadian Open and U.S. Amateur|
|1921||Disqualifies himself during third round of British Open|
|1922||Receives degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology|
|1923||Wins U.S. Open Championship|
|1924||Receives degree in English literature from Harvard University; marries Mary Rice Malone on June 17—they will have three children|
|1926||Wins U.S. and British Open Championships, first player to do so in same year|
|1927||Publishes first book, Down the Fairway ; receives degree from Emory University Law School|
|1928||Is admitted to the Georgia bar and begins working in his father's law practice in Atlanta. Jones will continue to practice law after retirement from golf and will head the firm until his death.|
|1930||Wins Grand Slam: U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, British Open, and British Amateur Championships; retires from competitive golf on November 18 and surrenders amateur status|
|1930-34||Makes a series of motion picture films demonstrating his golfing techniques|
|1931||With broker Clifford Roberts and golf architect Alister Mackenzie, purchases Fruitland Nurseries property in Augusta, Georgia, and begins design and construction of Augusta National Golf Club|
|1932||Designs first matched set of golf clubs for A. G. Spalding and Company|
|1933||Augusta National Golf Club opens|
|1934||First Augusta National Invitation Tournament is held; Jones plays four rounds|
|1938||Name of Augusta tournament is changed to Masters Tournament|
|1948||Plays in last Masters Tournament and plays final round of golf in Atlanta; has back surgery and begins to suffer pain and atrophy on his right side|
|1956||Ailment is diagnosed as syringomyelia|
|1958||Receives Freedom of the City and Royal Burgh of St. Andrews, Scotland|
|1968||Attends final Masters Tournament|
|1971||Dies December 17 in Atlanta; is buried in Oakland Cemetery|
|1972||Inducted into Southern Golf Hall of Fame; 10th hole at St. Andrews Old Course named in his honor|
|1974||Inducted into World Golf Hall of Fame|
|1989||Inducted into Georgia Hall of Fame|
|2002||Atlanta History Center hosts tribute to Jones on March 17, the 100th anniversary of his birth.sidebar text|
(With Harold E. Lowe) Group Instruction in Golf: A Handbook for Schools and Colleges, American Sports Pub. Co., 1939.
Golf Is My Game, Doubleday, 1960.
Bobby Jones on Golf, Doubleday, 1966. Reprint, Golf Digest/Tennis, Inc., 1986. Rev. ed., edited by Sidney L. Matthew, Sleeping Bear Press, 1997.
Awards and Accomplishments
|Winning all four major championships-the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, British Open, and British Amateur-was known as the Grand Slam. Today the Grand Slam consists of the Masters Tournament, the Professional Golfer's Associ-ation (PGA) Tournament, the U.S. Open Championship, and the British Open Championship.|
|St. Andrews, Scotland, is home of the Old Course, said to be the founding place of golf.|
|1911||East Lake (Georgia) Junior Championship, at age 9|
|1916||Georgia State Amateur Championship; qualified in National Amateur Championship|
|1917||Southern Amateur Championship|
|1919||Runner-up, Southern Open Championship; runner-up, Canadian Open Championship; runner-up, National Amateur Championship|
|1920||Southern Amateur Championship; tied for eighth place in National Open; National Amateur Championship, medalist|
|1922||Southern Amateur Championship; tied for second place in National Open Championship|
|1923||Won National Open Championship after play-off; National Amateur Championship, medalist after play-off|
|1924||National Amateur Championship; National Open Championship, second place|
|1925||National Amateur Championship; National Open Championship, second place after play-off|
|1926||British Open Championship; U.S. Open Championship; U.S. Amateur Championship, medalist and runner-up|
|1927||British Open, won with new record score of 285; U.S. Amateur Championship, medalist and winner|
|1928||National Amateur Championship; U.S. Open Championship, second place after play-off|
|1929||Won National Open Championship in play-off; National Amateur Championship, co-medalist with Gene Homans|
|1930||Savannah Open Tournament, second place; won Southeastern Open; Golf Illustrated Gold Vase Tournament; British Amateur Championship; British Open Championship; U.S. Amateur Championship; U.S. Open Championship|
|1950||Associated Press poll judged Jones's Grand Slam "the Supreme Athletic Achievement of the Century"|
|1955||U.S. Golf Association's highest honor named the Bob Jones Award|
|1958||Received Freedom of the City and Royal Burgh of St. Andrews at St. Andrews, Scotland|
|1966||Named president in perpetuity of the Augusta National Golf Club|
|1972||Inducted into the Southern Golf Hall of Fame; 10th hole at Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland, named in his honor.|
|1974||Inducted into World Golf Hall of Fame|
|1989||Inducted into Georgia Hall of Fame, Augusta|
Bobby Jones on the Basic Golf Swing, Doubleday, 1969.
Jebsen, Harry. "Robert Tyre Jones, Jr." Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 9: 1971-1975. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1994.
Rice, Grantland, from the writings of O. B. Keeler. The Bobby Jones Story. Atlanta: Tupper & Love, 1953.
St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. "Bobby Jones." five volumes. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000.
"Golfer of the Golden Era." Newsweek (December 27, 1971): 48.
American Decades CD-ROM. "Robert 'Bobby' Tyre Jones, Jr." Detroit: Gale Group, 1998.
Augusta Chronicle. "The Life of Bobby Jones." CNN/Sports Illustrated. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/ (October 21, 2002).
Boyette, John. Augusta Chronicle. "Golf's Gentleman." CNN/Sports Illustrated. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/ (October 21, 2002).
Boyette, John. Augusta Chronicle. "Golf World Pays Tribute to Legend." CNN/Sports Illustrated. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/ (October 21, 2002).
DISCovering Biography. "Bobby Jones." Detroit: Gale Group, 1997.
DISCovering U.S. History. "Golf in the 1920s." Detroit: Gale Group, 1997.
Golf Europe. "The Walker Cup." http://golfeurope.com/almanac/majors/walker_cup.htm (October 22, 2002).
Internet Movie Database. "Bobby Jones." http://us.imdb.com/ (October 24, 2002).
Smith, Jason. Augusta Chronicle. "Jones Statue Joins Golf Gardens." CNN/Sports Illustrated. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/ (October 21, 2002).
Sketch by Ann H. Shurgin
Television show host, musician
Gospel music was not popular on television before the advent of Bobby Jones and his TV program Bobby Jones Gospel Hour. In 2004, he celebrated his twenty-fifth season as one of the most popular shows on Black Entertainment Television (BET). As host and executive producer of the number one syndicated gospel television program, seen by millions of viewers, Jones is synonymous with gospel television. Over the years, he established himself as a major principal in the gospel music industry by providing a medium for new talent while reaching a broader audience. Fundamen-tally, he changed the gospel music industry. An award-winning artist and host of the first and only nationally syndicated African American gospel television show and Video Gospel, Jones has worked with and introduced some of the most noted artists in the industry. Considered an icon in gospel music, Bobby Jones has received numerous awards, including the Grammy, the Gospel Music Association's (GMA) Dove Award, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's (NAACP) Image Award, and the GMA's Commonwealth Award for outstanding contribution to gospel music, to list only a few.
Born into a family of sharecroppers on September 18, 1938 in Henry, Tennessee, Bobby Jones was the youngest of Jim and Augusta Thorpe Jones's three children. Delivered by his paternal grandmother, Lydia Jones, he spent his early years in Henry, which is in the western division of the state, just south of Paris, Tennessee. A shy child, Jones was reared in a three-room, wood-framed house, with no electricity or running water, and at times barely enough food to eat. Although his early life was somewhat traumatic because his parents abused alcohol and his father verbally abused him, his paternal grandmother, who was responsible for his formative years and provided a much needed support system, strongly influenced Jones and gave him the love and guidance he needed.
In 1943, Jones began attending Caton Elementary School, which only operated during the winter months, since the spring and fall were reserved for crop harvesting. Caton, an all black, one-room schoolhouse, catered to children in grades one through eight. Because of his ability to read and do mathematical computations, the teacher moved him to the second grade.
- Born in Henry, Tennessee on September 18
- Graduates from Tennessee A & I State University
- Receives M.A. from Tennessee State University
- Serves as educational consultant, McGraw-Hill, St. Louis, Missouri
- Co-hosts Fun City Five TV show, Nashville, Tennessee
- Instructor, Tennessee State University; forms the gospel group Bobby Jones and the New Life Singers
- Introduces the Nashville Gospel Music Show, which later becomes Bobby Jones Gospel Hour; Bobby Jones and the New Life Singers record first album, Sooner or Later on Benson Records
- Hosts Bobby Jones's World, a community-affairs talk show
- Receives doctorate from Vanderbilt University; Bobby Jones's World wins Gabriel Award; Bobby Jones Gospel Hour appears on Black Entertainment Network (BET); Gospel Opera Make a Joyful Noise airs on PBS
- Bobby Jones and the New Life Singers win a Grammy for best performance by a black contemporary gospel group for album Soul Set Free; appears in the NBC-TV Movie of the Week Sister, Sister
- Receives Dove Award from the Gospel Music Association for the black Contemporary album of the year Come Together; receives Grammy Award for duet with country music singer, Barbara Mandrell, "I'm So Glad I'm Standing Here Today"
- Video Gospel premieres on BET
- Receives the GMA's Commonwealth Award for outstanding contribution to gospel music; the Bobby Jones Gospel Explosion is founded
- St. Martin's Press publishes memoir Make a Joyful Noise: My 25 Years in Gospel Music
- Receives the Chairman's Award from BET
- Receives Next Level Award at About My Father's Business conference
- Receives the Trumpet Award for Television
Jones attended Central High School in Paris, Tennessee. He walked a mile to meet the school bus by 7:00 A.M. and then rode at least an hour on the back roads as the bus driver picked up other students. Because of his parents' breakup, the family moved to Paris during his second year of high school. While in high school, Jones participated in extracurricular activities, and he worked as a dishwasher at the Paris Landing State Park restaurant, where he advanced to being a waiter. In the top five of his class, Jones graduated from Central High School in 1955. Influenced by the class valedictorian, who planed to pursue a college degree, Jones decided to do the same.
Pursues Degree in Elementary Education
With the help of his uncle, Johnny Thorpe, who lived in Nashville, Jones entered Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State University (now Tennessee State University) in the fall of 1955. Thorpe provided his nephew with a place to stay and paid his tuition. While standing in the registration line to select classes, he struck up a conversation with a fellow student who asked him what major he was going to pursue. It was during this dialogue that the freshman decided to major in elementary education.
While living with his uncle and attending Tennessee A & I, Jones learned to play the piano and became interested in gospel music. Unlike his hometown, which primarily played country music, the radio stations in Nashville played gospel music. With his aunt's tutelage and his persistent practicing, Jones learned to play a few church songs. Practice paid off when he answered a First Street Baptist Church radio ad seeking a piano player for its Sunday school. Although his repertoire was limited, he was hired. Soon Jones played for the Sunday school and for the senior choir, and later he became responsible for the church's entire musical department. All of these factors caused Jones to identify with gospel music, which held the path to his future career.
Jones stayed with the Thorpes for approximately nine months, and as promised he repaid his uncle. While there, he worked with his uncle doing construction, played the piano at a number of churches, and waited tables. Although Sundays were full and exciting, Jones had trouble adjusting to college and urban life. He missed family and friends. Those to whom he was closest were still in high school. At the end of the second quarter, he dropped out and returned home to Paris, where he remained until the fall of 1956.
Jones returned to the university when one of his friends and a cousin entered in the fall. Their presence made college bearable for him. They facilitated his reentrance, and they also helped him make the transition to an academic environment. Jones's grade point average began to improve, and he made the honor roll. Although he made the impulsive decision to major in elementary education as a freshman, he now knew for sure that he wanted to teach and help mold the minds and character of elementary age students. In 1959, at the age of nineteen, Jones graduated from Tennessee A & I State University with a bachelor's degree in elementary education.
Enters Teaching Profession
In 1959, Jones began his teaching career at Farragut Elementary School, in St. Louis. Assigned to teach fifth grade students, he found that they were only a few years younger than he. Observing that other teachers were strict disciplinarians, he knew he faced a challenge. The new teacher used music to bring discipline into his classroom by teaching his students to sing in addition to their other coursework. It was an imaginative tactic and it worked well. As he had done in Nashville, Jones found a way to continue his gospel music interest. He affiliated himself with a small Baptist church in Braden, where he played gospel music.
Jones taught in the St. Louis school system for seven years before returning to Nashville to accept a teaching position there. While in St. Louis, Jones pursued a master's degree. However, the teaching position may not have been the only thing that persuaded Jones to return to Nashville. Crime permeated St. Louis. Being from the rural South, Jones was naive about people, and it caused him problems. On more than one occasion, people he knew broke into his apartment and stole his possessions. During another incident, a male attacker jumped into his car, put a knife to his throat, and demanded money. Escaping unharmed, these incidents aided Jones in making the decision to return to Nashville.
In 1965, Jones earned a master's degree in education from Tennessee A & I State University. The same year, Jones returned to Nashville to accept a teaching position at Lakeview Elementary School, a predominately white school. Nashville was in the midst of desegregating its school system and hired Jones to assist in that process. The only African American teacher at the school, he taught fifth grade students. Later, he transferred to Head Elementary School, which was located in north Nashville where all the students were African American. There Jones taught math and science courses. McGraw-Hill then hired him as an educational consultant in 1967. Although it meant returning to St. Louis, Jones accepted the position.
A year after he moved to St. Louis for a second time, in 1968, the April 4 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. shattered the country. That night as Jones traveled to be with friends, the police stopped his car, made him get out, and searched him. One of the officers butted him with his weapon. They held him in custody and carried him to jail. Once Jones reached the jailhouse, he was fingerprinted, handcuffed, and shackled. His emotions ran the gambit from being afraid and angry to being devastated by King's assassination. With his one phone call, he telephoned his godmother and was ultimately released.
Jones continued to work for McGraw-Hill as a traveling educational consultant, but after approximately eight years of traveling, Jones grew weary of living out of a suitcase. He returned to Nashville and accepted a position at Tennessee State University.
Soon after his return to Nashville, Jones became actively involved in the community. Ever true to gospel music, he organized the Love Train Choir, which had 350 members from all socio-economic groups, occupations, professions, and lifestyles. He organized Project Help, a program designed to assist the elderly. On the first Sunday of each month, the Love Train Choir performed in concert, the proceeds from which went to Project Help. Project Help fed the poor, paid utility bills, and purchased medicines for Nashville's poor senior citizens. Jones also became involved in Nashville's Black Expo, an organization that gave exposure to the city's African American intellectual and artistic individuals. He became the organization's first president. Under Jones's leadership, Nashville's Black Expo was a success.
Hosts Television Show
After his tenure with the Black Expo ended, Jones became affiliated with Channel 4 (WSMV), a local affiliate of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). However, this was not Jones's first appearance as a television host. In 1973, he co-hosted Fun City Five, a Saturday morning children's show on Channel 5 (WTVF), the local Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) affiliate. Fun City Five allowed the aspiring news reporter to put his acquired skills from working with McGraw-Hill to use in a different venue.
In 1976, Theresa Hannah, an assistant of Nettie Stowers, who hosted an African American community-affairs program, approached Bobby Jones about doing a regular gospel music show for television. Thrilled about the possibility, Jones put together a pilot. Accepted by the station, the Nashville Gospel Music Show was born. The pilot was given a thirteen-week trial. To produce the show, Jones received an expense account of approximately $500. The Nashville Gospel Music Show aired on Sunday mornings at 9:00. Featuring known gospel artists as well as local artists, the Nashville Gospel Music Show eventually captured the highest ratings during that time slot. Within two years, officials at the city's public broadcasting station asked Jones to produce a community-affairs talk show. Bobby Jones's World aired on Nashville Public Television's (NPT) Channel 8, the Public Broadcasting System's (PBS) affiliate, and remained on the air for approximately six years.
Blazes a Path in Television for Gospel Artists
Through his magazine-style program, Jones met noted authors, entertainers, and national leaders. While working with both television programs, Jones continued in his position at Tennessee State University and pursued his doctorate degree at Vanderbilt University. It was in his position at Tennessee State University that he met the African American poet, novelist, and educator Maya Angelou. Later, the two became friends and she asked him to do a benefit for her aunt's church in California. By 1980, the Nashville Gospel Music Show, now known as the Bobby Jones Gospel Hour was picked up by Robert Johnson's Black Entertainment Network (BET), which was also established in 1980. One of the first programs on BET, the gospel show aided the new cable enterprise in gaining a substantial television audience, as well as providing a considerable viewing audience for the musical genre. The same year that the Bobby Jones Gospel Hour appeared on BET, Jones received his doctorate in Curriculum Leadership from Vanderbilt University. Additionally, his gospel opera, Make a Joyful Noise, which is the same title of his 2000 memoir, aired on PBS. Jones, who starred in the opera, won a Gabriel Award and an International Film Festival Award for his writing and performance.
It was through Angelou that Jones and his choral group, the New Life Singers, appeared in the 1982 NBC Movie of the Week, Sister, Sister. Written by Angelou, Sister, Sister featured such stars as Diahann Carroll, Paul Wingfield, Irene Cara, and Rosland Cash. The same year that he and the New Life Singers appeared in the NBC-TV movie, the Recording Academy nominated their album, Soul Set Free, for a Grammy Award for the best performance by a black contemporary gospel group. One year after he appeared on the NBC Movie of the Week, he was a guest on country music star Ronnie Milsap's television special, In Celebration.
Seven years after his appearance in Sister, Sister, Jones's Video Gospel premiered on BET. Video Gospel, which he produced, was the only national television outlet that gospel artists had for showing their videos.
Jones recorded a number of releases, including There is Hope in this World (1978); Caught Up (1979); Tin Gladje (1981); and Come Together (1984), which the Gospel Musical Association awarded a Dove Award for the black contemporary album of the year. The same year, "I'm So Glad I'm Standing Here Today," a duet with country music star Barbara Mandrell, received a Grammy Award. Jones and the New Life Singers later released I'll Never Forget (1990); Bring It to Jesus (1993); and Another Time (1996). Two years later, Jones and a new group, the Nashville Super Choir, released Just Churchin'. This 1998 release featured gospel music artists Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Donald Lawrence, James Moore, and Vicki Winans. In addition, Angelou rendered her talents to the Just Churchin' album.
Bobby Jones has received many awards and accolades. The GMA awarded him the Commonwealth Award for outstanding contributions to gospel music in 1991. In 1994, he was nominated for the National Cable Television Association's Cable Ace Award. In June 2001, Bob Clement, the U.S. representative from Tennessee's Fifth Congressional District, paid homage to him in Congress. When BET held its Second Annual Awards program in June of 2002, Jones received the Chairman's Award. In 2003, he received a number of honors and awards. Xernona Clayton presented him with the Trumpet Award on January 4, in Atlanta, Georgia. On April 25, the St. Louis Heart Association honored him with the Citizen's Award. On May 9, at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Tom Joyner Foundation honored Jones as "The Hardest Working Man." During the first week in June, 100 Black Men of America, Inc. presented Jones with the "Uplifting God through Song and Praise" Award. On June 22, Texas State representative Al Edwards honored him with the Unsung Hero Award at the Juneteenth Celebration in Dallas, Texas. The government of the Turks and Caicos Islands honored him for outstanding service in gospel music in July 2003. The same month, President George W. Bush invited Jones to the White House for an update on his trip to Africa. On September 19, he was inducted into the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame. In January 2005, the Stellar Music Awards paid tribute to the legendary gospel music entertainer by presenting him with the first ever Legendary Award. Eight months later, the About My Father's Business conference honored Jones with the Next Level Award. He was also the recipient of the 2006 Trumpet Award for Television.
Through his BET television show, the Bobby Jones Gospel Hour, Jones has given gospel artists the opportunity to present their music before millions. One of the first programs and the longest-running weekly show in cable-television history, it was the only syndicated black gospel television show that affords gospel performers the chance to gain national exposure.
Schmitt, Brad, and Ryan Underwood. "Gospel Star Bobby Jones Likes the Sound of Florida Overture." Tennessean, 22 January 2006.
Linda T. Wynn
Jones, Bobby 1939(?)–
Bobby Jones 1939(?)–
Gospel vocalist, television host
“What Dick Clark is to rock ’n’ roll and Don Cornelius is to soul, Bobby Jones is to gospel music,” declared Washington Post writer Mike Joyce in 1995. Since 1980, Jones has hosted the Bobby Jones Gospel Hour, which airs weekly on the Black Entertainment Television (BET) cable network. Like its counterparts in pop and soul, the Hour offers gospel fans live performances by well-known names in the industry along with interview clips and album reviews. Though little-known outside of gospel music circles, Jones remains a powerful force in the industry.
Jones, born in Paris, Tennessee, was a schoolteacher in Nashville for a time after earning his master’s degree from Tennessee State University. He left his teaching job to become a textbook consultant specializing in elementary education, then began teaching reading skills at Tennessee State University in the early 1970s. Around this same time, he also began a second career as a singer on the gospel circuit, and continued his activism in the local civil-rights movement and his church. Seeing an opportunity to merge the drive for African American economic independence with an already-established sense of community among Nashville’s black churches, in 1976 he helped create the city’s first Black Expo. Inspired in part by Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH in Chicago, Black Expo featured numerous serious workshops, but had also attracted some of its 50,000 attendees with a host of concerts. A young Natalie Cole was one of Jones’s hired performers in Black Expo’s early years.
Black Expo also attracted the attention of local media executives, and as Jones explained in the interview with Joyce for the Washington Post, “at that time affirmative action was in place and Channel 4 in Nashville didn’t have its complete number of black programmers in place,” he recalled. “So we asked if we could do a pilot for a gospel show—and it’s been running ever since.” The Nashville Gospel Show was a hit in the area, but Jones jumped ship in 1980 when he was invited by Robert Johnson, founder of the fledgling Black Entertainment Television (BET) network, to bring an hour of gospel television to the new cable network. The Bobby Jones Gospel Hour was one of the first shows on BET, which during its first few lean years on the air could only afford to offer a few hours of programming a week.
The Hour came to be known as a showcase for gospel-music giants who enjoyed little national exposure otherwise. Since the BET studios were in Washington, for several years Jones flew back and forth from Nashville to tape the show. He also continued his career as a recording artist, cutting gospel records with the New Life Choir such as I’ll Never Forget. In 1984, he won his first Grammy Award for a duet with country music singer Barbara Mandrell, “I’m So Glad I’m Standing Here Today.” The two had met when both were cutting tracks at the same Nashville recording studio, and became friends. Mandrell appeared on Jones’ show, and the
At a Glance…
Born c. 1939, in Paris, TN. Education: Received master’s degree from Tennessee State University; earned Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.
Career: Taught in Nashville, TN; textbook consultant for an educational publishing house; Tennessee State University, Nashville, instructor in reading and study skills, from 1972 until mid-1980s; launched second career as a gospel singer, c. 1972; formed gospel group, New Life, in Nashville, TN, c. 1975; has recorded over ten albums; host and producer, The Bobby Jones Gospel Hour, 1980—.
Awards: Grammy Award, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1984, for “I’m So Glad I’m Standing Here Today” also the recipient of Dove Awards.
Addresses: Office — Millennium Entertainment, 1314 5th, Nashville, TN 37208.
unlikely duo even toured together until her 1985 automobile accident. Since then, other country music stars have also appeared on the Gospel Hour, such as Marty Robbins and Ricky Skaggs; even pop artists such as Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. have been guests, but everybody sings gospel. “We’re trying to bridge ideologies to the focal point—the works of Jesus,” Jones told Joe Edwards for the Chicago Tribune, “… [O]ur goal is to bring one’s attention to the wonderful design of the Bible.”
Jones later expanded his presence on BET with the half-hour show, Video Gospel, which he also hosts. The Bobby Jones Gospel Hour is broadcast on the American Christian Network and the Armed Forces radio and television stations, giving Jones an audience of gospel fans around the world in countries that include Nigeria and Holland. Jones himself has also performed internationally, including stops in Israel and Africa, and sang at the White House for President Jimmy Carter; he was also invited to appear before Ronald Reagan in a performance at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Jones kept his teaching job at Tennessee State as late as the mid-1980s, and by then had also earned a doctorate in curriculum leadership from Vanderbilt University. He has a record label, GospoCentric, and in addition to his television responsibilities has brought an increased awareness for the music form since 1989 with his live tours known as the “Bobby Jones Gospel Explosions.” His three-day event in 1998 at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center—part of its Black History month celebrations—featured such gospel all-stars as CeCe Winans, John P. Kee, and Albertina Walker. His “Mini-Explosions” bring gospel music to audiences in smaller cities across the United States as well as in Europe and the Caribbean.
When asked by James D. Davis of the Sun-Sentinel, “How did gospel music become more popular?,” Jones replied, “My show. It’s catapulted gospel into a whole new era. Before, you had only radio and concerts. TV has opened gospel up to a lot of people.” Based on his fan club roster, Jones once estimated that a good portion of his viewing audience was white, proving a wider audience for the music existed far beyond most preconceptions. “I want to be one of the people to bring gospel music to the real marketplace by educating people about its marvelous and unique features,” he told Edwards in the Chicago Tribune. “It should be placed where any good music is,” he added. Jones is also committed to holding the door open for a new generation of singers, and his Explosions tours often feature well-known local acts, such as Washington, D.C.’s William Becton and Friends. Record-industry personnel attend the shows, but Jones is also careful to mix the vintage and the up-and-coming. “It is important for young people to know who paved the way for us,” he told HamilR. Harris in the Washington Post “You can’t go into the future without knowing the past,” he continued.
For the Doubleday publishing house, Jones is working on a book that compiles testimonials from well-known gospel personalities. In his off-hours, he likes Las Vegas, though he does not gamble, but instead loves its musical offerings. In the Sun-Sentinel interview, Davis also asked him what he hoped his ultimate legacy would be. “I would like to be known for completing what the Lord gave me to do, bringing people together, spreading love, like serving water,” Jones replied. “Without that, I am nothing,” he concluded.
Billboard, March 29, 1997, p. 17.
Chicago Tribune, November 7, 1985, p. 13D.
Nation’s Business, February 1995, p. 13.
Washington Post, July 7, 1995, p. N13; July 17, 1995, p. D1.
Sun-Sentinel interview at http://southflorida.digitalcity.com/DCComunity/c0fvpll3.htm