Obituary: Dr. H. G. Jones

Pittsboro, NC – Dr. H. G. Jones, archivist, historian, teacher, and author, died October 14, 2018, at The Arbor, Galloway Ridge at Fearrington, Pittsboro, North Carolina.

Houston Gwynne Jones was born on January 7, 1924.

Houston Gwynne Jones was born on January 7, 1924, on a tenant farm near Kill Quick in Locust Hill Township, Caswell County. He was predeceased by his parents, Paul Hosier Jones and Lemma Sue Fowlkes Jones; sister Mary Pauline Jones Jones; and brothers William Joseph Jones and Thaddeus Cornelius Jones II. He is survived by several nephews, nieces, cousins, colleagues and friends, especially his close friends, Joyce and Fred Sparling, Willis P. Whichard, and Kathy and Bill White. All who knew and loved Dr. Jones are indebted greatly to his best friend and caregiver at Galloway Ridge, Dr. J. Boyd Webb.

Following graduation from Cobb Memorial High School in 1941, young Jones took a self-help job at Lees-McRae College before volunteering for the Navy in World War II. He served as a sonarman aboard USS Subchaser 525 in Morocco and the Mediterranean, participating in the invasions of Anzio (where both hands were broken) and Southern France. He later served as a sonarman and yeoman aboard USS Speed and USS Strive during the battle for Okinawa and the occupation of Japan. His wartime experiences are recorded in his book, The Sonarmans War: Chasing Submarines and Sweeping Mines in World War II.

Following the war, he was graduated from Appalachian State Teachers College in 1949 and received a masters degree from George Peabody College the following year. In summers he edited the Blowing Rocket and produced publicity for the resort town of Blowing Rock. While teaching history three years at Oak Ridge Military Institute, he attended summer graduate school at New York University but transferred to Duke University, eventually earning his Ph.D. from Duke. His tribute to the G.I. Bill of Rights for financing his education was cited by President Barack Obama when a new veterans rights bill was signed into law in 2009. Dr. Jones also taught briefly at Western Carolina Teachers College and West Georgia College before, in 1956, being appointed State Archivist of North Carolina.

In 1968, Dr. Jones was elected Director of the State Department of Archives and History, which he built into the largest and most comprehensive state historical agency in the Union. In addition to developing the nations outstanding archival and records management program and expanding the services of the North Carolina Museum of History, Dr. Jones initiated the acquisition of the David Marshall Carbine Williams workshop for the Museum and also initiated the acquisition and development of new historic sites at Reed Gold Mine, Duke Homestead, Fort Dobbs and Thomas Wolfe Memorial. He considered his single most significant accomplishment, his partnership with Governor Robert W. Scott, in reversing the deterioration ofand restoring the nineteenth-century splendor of the Old Gray Lady, the hallowed State Capitol.

In 1974, Dr. Jones succeeded his friend, the late William S. Powell, as Curator of the North Carolina Collection and adjunct professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Having been reared on a farm without books, he took great pride in presiding over the largest library relating to a single state in the Union. The collection more than doubled its holdings in the succeeding years and, to serve citizens who could not get to Chapel Hill on weekdays, he opened its reading room on weekends. From the staff of his former State Department of Archives and History, he recruited Robert G. Anthony, Jr., who succeeded him as Curator in 1994, and R. Neil Fulghum, who transformed a former reading room into the North Carolina Collection Gallery, which grew into one of the most popular attractions on campus.

Dr. Jones served as president or chairman of virtually all of the North Carolina historical organizations, including Americas Four Hundredth Anniversary Committee that led to a cooperative exhibition on the Roanoke voyages at the British Museum and at American venues. At the national level, he was elected president of the Society of American Archivists, secretary of the American Association for State and Local History, secretary of the Joint Committee on the Status of the National Archives, and commissioner of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. He conducted studies and prepared legislation that led to improved archival programs of the states of California, Florida, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Virginia. His investigative report on the National Archives, the text of which was published under the title The Records of a Nation, was used as evidence in the Nixon tapes trial and helped pave the way for the present independent National Archives and Records Administration.

Among Dr. Jones’ other publications, For History’s Sake won the Waldo Gifford Leland Prize as the best book on archival history and theory; it was also recognized by the AASLHs Award of Merit as an exemplar in the study of public records. With his Local Government Records, he became the first person to win the Leland Prize twice. Two of his books stand as both the first and last of their type. North Carolina Illustrated (winner of the William Richardson Davie Award) was the first effort to capture within covers the four-hundred-year visual history of the state. The book appeared on the cusp of computerization and digital imaging; consequently, it will also be the last of its type. Likewise, his 11,399-entry North Carolina History: An Annotated Bibliography sought to put into bound-book format bibliographical information that will appear in the future only in digitized format. At age 91, he produced Miss Marys Money: Fortune and Misfortune in a North Carolina Plantation Family, 1760-1924.

Beginning in 1969, Dr. Jones wrote pro-bono, and the Associated Press distributed, a weekly column titled In Light of History devoted to North Carolina history. During the next seventeen years he produced 884 stories averaging six hundred words each, the equivalent of 134 newspaper pages without advertising. When the series was terminated in 1986, In Light of History held the record as the nations longest-running weekly series on the history of a state. The 1994 annual banquet of the North Carolina Writers Conference was devoted to Dr. Joness career.

At the national level, Dr. Jones was elected a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists and was recognized with the Award of Distinction by the American Association for State and Local History and the Award for Distinguished Service in Documentary Preservation and Publication by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. At the state level, he received the first Distinguished Alumnus Award from Appalachian State University, the Christopher Crittenden Memorial Award of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association, Ruth Cannon Cup of the North Carolina Society for the Preservation of Antiquities, first Faculty Service Award of the General Alumni Association of UNC-CH, and the John Tyler Caldwell Award of the North Carolina Humanities Council. In 2002 his career was capped by the states highest civilian award, the coveted North Carolina Award for Public Service.

In 1971, when he spent his first genuine vacation in Alaska and the Canadian Arctic, Dr. Jones returned with a burning interest in the Inuit (Eskimoan) people. Having grown up in poverty during the Great Depression, he felt kinship with the Inuit, who for centuries adapted to the worlds harshest climate by utilizing scarce national resources to supply all of their needs, food, clothing, housing, utensils, weapons, and toys. In the next forty years, the Southerner in the North made more than fifty trips to the Arctic, including Siberia, Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Saamiland, and Svalbard. He developed a special relationship with the Inuit of Canadas Baffin Island, who in the postwar period developed a distinctive talent for art, including stone and ivory sculpture, stonecut and stencil prints, and qiviut weavings. He became an honorary citizen of the hamlet of Pangnirtung, a supporter of the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts, and a patron of Andrew Qappik, whose art career started at age fourteen. Qappiks talents won him the commission to design the flag and coat-of-arms of the new Canadian territory of Nunavut, and Dr. Jones’s collection of the artists cataloged prints the only complete set in existence was given to the Winnipeg Art Museum, which opened it with a major exhibition in 2010. Other portions of Dr. Jones’s collection were given to the Turchin Museum at Appalachian State University, the Ackland at UNC-CH, and the Spencer Museum at the University of Kansas. Dr. Jones was active in and presented papers before the Inuit Studies Conference, Society for the History of Discoveries, and Association of Arctic Social Sciences, whose journals published several of his scholarly studies.

In 1975, Dr. Jones observed that, while there existed several fine organizations committed to specific aspects of North Carolinas history, literature, and art, none encompassed the entire breadth of the states cultural heritage. To fill the void, he founded and, with William S. Powell and Louis M. Connor Jr., chartered the North Caroliniana Society, of which he remained secretary-treasurer until 2010. Limited to elected members who have demonstrated their commitment to the states heritage in the broadest sense, the Society is unique in that it has never levied dues nor paid a salary; yet it has granted nearly four hundred Archie K. Davis Fellowships to assist scholars in gaining access to the states rich cultural heritage; sponsored several national conferences; published more than fifty North Caroliniana Society Imprints; and recognized more than three dozen citizens with the North Caroliniana Society Award, while, at the same time assisting other agencies and organizations such as the North Carolina Collection, Literary and Historical Association, and Preservation North Carolina.

Memorials may be addressed to the North Caroliniana Society, UNC Campus Box 3930, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-8890. Celebrations of the life of Dr. H. G. Jones will be held on November 1, 2018, at 2:00 p.m., in the Living Room at Galloway Ridge, Pittsboro; and on November 12, 2018, at 2:00 p.m., at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center, Chapel Hill.