Monday, July 6, 2009

Ben Jones - A True Leader

One word is not ample enough to describe the man called Ben Jones. A political force, strong, humble, determined, brilliant are just a few. Mr. Jones was a force to be reckoned with. He was the first African-American to be elected Councilman of the newly created East Ward of Orange and rallied for equality for the community of Orange.

Benjamin Franklin Jones was born in Virginia, but his family migrated to Orange when he was seven. His love for Orange is evident by his vast history of social and political change in order to make Orange an equal and fair city. In 1968 Mr. Jones led a campaign for a new high school and fought for equal employment for all. He rallied and won the fight for senior citizen housing, revitalized Orange’s recreation program and worked alongside Mr. Ernest Thompson, a union organizer and political activist, to form CRG (Citizen’s for Representative Government) to abolish segregated schools in Orange. I had the honor of meeting Mr. Jones at the 2007 HANDS Community Leadership Awards and I just stood in awe. I was unaware of the separation of schools due to a gerrymandered school district line which was uncovered by Mr. Thompson.

Today, the newly formed CRG now known as Citizens for Responsible Government movement has taken the reins to provide a fair and just society in Orange. A Free People’s University called University of Orange (U of O)was formulated by CRG. U of O offers free classes, walking tours and symposiums for citizens willing to expand their knowledge of the City that is Orange.

Mr. Jones gave neighbors of Orange a sense of pride. He never had to raise his voice but spoke with eloquence and assurance. Mr. Jones was called home on Friday, June 26th but his legacy will live on. The City of Orange recognized Mr. Jones’ accomplishments by naming a section of Cleveland Street after him. Mayor Eldridge Hawkins, Councilwoman Tency Eason and host of friends and family attended the celebration.
The strength of a leader is the courage to be humble. Mr. Jones embodied this sentiment and his legacy will live on through us.
Kelli Copeland

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