Valdosta Daily Times

September 23, 2013

Advocate of education, hard work and faith

Matthew Woody
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Sarah McClamb B. Jones, 88, is not a native of Valdosta. She was born and raised in Johnston County, N.C. Her father, Dell McClamb, owned and ran a 125 acre farm. He took pride, she says, in having “five daughters, five sons, and five mules”.

During the day, McClamb gave his children two choices: go to school or work on the farm. Throughout her life, Jones has chosen both.

The McClamb family farm consisted of chickens, hogs, beans, peanuts, and corn among other things. Her father said, “If you don’t go to school, we have plenty of work for you.” Jones jokingly stated, “And you wouldn’t want to work under him. He worked hard.”

On rainy days, McClamb encouraged his children to work on their reading and writing skills. Jones said that her father taught his children three things: to work, obey, and learn.

Even if his children missed the bus, McClamb put them in his new Chevrolet that he bought in 1933 for $600, and drove them to school. The principal at their school would be waiting outside, expecting them to arrive, and their teachers were glad to see them. Once the crop started to come in, after school, they would hang up their school clothes, then put on their work clothes. But that did not deter them from enjoying their time, Jones said.

“Do you know why we had a good time?” She continued, “Because all the neighbors’ children were doing the same thing.”

Jones’ childhood farm is near a blue pond in North Carolina. Sometimes after school, she, her siblings, and other neighboring children would swim in and fish on the pond. But most days after school, Jones and her siblings helped their father on their farm.

As they grew up, some of her childhood friends went to New York, three of her brothers fought in World War II, and Jones studied science at St. Augustine College, in Raleigh, N.C. She received an academic scholarship because she was ranked second in her high school class. While she was in college, Jones’ father paid her bills, and made sure she had good shoes, one good coat, a warm hat, and plenty of food, but he would not pay for her to buy frivolous items.

During the summertime, Jones worked on her uncle’s tobacco farm for two or three weeks. She earned enough extra money to buy some of the fancy stuff she wanted. One of the items she splurged on was a wind breaker/raincoat.

She was the only child that her father had who attended college. Receiving support from her mother, brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles, Jones worked extremely hard paving her own way. Writing to her, Jones’ brothers said, “Be sure you stick to your books,” and she did.

Jones said, “I knew when I went out in the [work] field, I had to work.” After she received her degree she moved to Georgia, eventually expecting to move back to North Carolina. Jones taught Biology, Physical Science, and Chemistry at Dasher High School for 30 years. There she met her late husband, Edward Jones, and they quickly fell in love. Jones said, “We didn’t court long. It was just one of those things.”

She enjoyed teaching all of the sciences, but she really enjoyed teaching Biology. She taught health and the human body, insects, and animals.

Once integration came to Georgia, she was one of the first African American teachers to be sent to Valdosta High School. When asked about her experiences, Jones said that it went well because when she taught she did not think about color. She gave the respect that she expected to receive from her students.

Teaching was Jones’ passion. She enjoyed helping her students blossom into their fullest potential. Some of the children were very bashful, and now speak publicly at churches, and some of her former students have become pastors.

After her influential teaching career, Jones worked on the City’s Housing Authority for 13 years as an advocate for keeping and restoring the historical buildings and houses in Valdosta.

Next, Jones worked with the children in her church for 13 years.  Every Saturday, Jones and several of her friends traveled to Lake Haven to teach a Bible study class. She “watched people come alive.”

Encouraged by her pastor, Jones helped create the Education and Scholarship Committee for  Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church. She serves as the president of this committee which offers multiple scholarships for high school graduates in the Valdosta area. Her pastor tells his congregation, “You’ve got to study, and stay on top of things.”

Jones and her late husband are both college educated, and made sure that all of their children earned a college degree as well. She supported her children while they were in college, like her father supported her. Two of her children received athletic scholarships.

Sarah McClamb B. Jones has been on the go her entire life. She continues to work hard every day, while teaching herself new things. Jones said, “I know God has a reason for slowing me down.”

She agreed that it might be because she has been moving so fast for such a long time. She enjoys staying busy, and now she spends a lot of her time helping out in her church.

For some final advice, Jones said, “Stay with your teaching and learning, and work hard.”