#History Before Us
Fighting Fire with Fire
Mr. Welton “Deacon” Jones is the son of James Robert and Minnie Lee Jones. Neither of his parents had formal education beyond the 4th grade but worked hard and made an honest living as a janitor and laundry presser, both children of sharecroppers. He is a resident of Raleigh, NC and was the 2nd African American fire fighter in history hired in the City of Raleigh and the 1st to retire. Mr. Jones as a child would be tasked to cut wood each morning which provided heat for the family. The source of cool air for the house in which he was raised consisted of “you rolling up that window and whatever breeze came through was your air conditioning. Mr. Jones as a youth would shine shoes at his uncles Juke Joint and also wait on the corner with all the other black kids on the weekend waiting for white families who owned farms to pick them up for work in the cotton fields. He recalls kids needing to help their families and needed to do whatever they could to do so.
Mr. Jones started the fire department in 1963 and held the post for 25 years. Mr. Jones accepted the job when the Country and City of Raleigh experienced strong racial tension. He was active in sit-ins at Shaw University which was founded the year slavery was abolished and is the oldest HBCU in the southern region of the United States. During his tenure at the fire department he received multiple threats after he and other African Americans sued the City of Raleigh for discrimination (which they won). Below reads some of the letters he received “Mr. Jones, discrimination is a way of life in North Carolina including when it comes to American’s with disabilities act… So get use to it”. The second expresses someone’s “Disgust” with him standing for what’s right. Mr. Jones has had the opportunity to meet Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Tuskegee Airmen and Rosa Parks, calling them “down to earth “people. He is passionate about aviation and volunteers teaching minority children about the field. He leaves this “somebody paid the price to open the door for you, you need to keep your focus and walk in”. Below are pictures of his parents, letters received, accomplishments, Shaw University, and his childhood home. Truly a pleasure to interview.