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Black History Spotlight: J. Raymond Jones

Feb. 4, 2005 – J. Raymond Jones, (1899-1991) was an inspiration to everyone, according to "From These Shores," a book that chronicles the lives of Danish West Indies natives, by Axel C. Hansen.
"The life of J. Raymond Jones was packed with accomplishments that should stimulate young people of all races to set their goals for the mountaintop, for although he was born on a small island in the Caribbean he became a leading political force in the largest city in the United States," says the author.
Jones, also known as "The Harlem Fox," was born on the island of St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies on Nov. 19, 1899. After completing, with distinction, his ninth-grade education, Jones went to work on the docks of the Charlotte Amalie harbor. In 1917 he stowed away on a boat to Puerto Rico, where he intended to stay with family on that island. Jones stayed a short time on Puerto Rico and then, in 1918, near the end of World War I, set sail for New York City. There he continued his education by working during the day and attending school at night. His first job was a porter on a railroad. Jones eventually became a labor recruiter, and later, in 1921, was hired to recruit black voters for the upcoming elections. This opportunity was to be the beginning of Jones' long and illustrious political career.
Throughout his life, Jones advocated for increased political representation for blacks and served as an intermediary to bring the black vote to major campaigns.
Jones' political career spanned more than five decades. During that time, he founded the Carver Democratic Club and was the adviser to the late Congressman Adam Clayton Powell. Jones served as the personal secretary to New York City mayor William O’Dyer and in 1961 was able to win the highest position within the formerly all-white Manhattan Democratic Club – known as the Tammany Club. As the book "From These Shores" points out, Jones met with Democratic nominee John F. Kennedy at Kennedy’s invitation during the presidential campaign of 1960. Both John F. and his brother Robert Kennedy sought Jones' endorsement of the Kennedy presidency.
Rep. Charles B. Rangel, a long-time friend and colleague of Jones, recounted Jones' political achievements before the House of Representatives on Thursday, June 13, 1991, just days after his death on June 9, at age 91.
Rangel said, "For fifty years, Jones served as a political activist and subsequently occupied the highest administrative position held at that time by a black person in New York City – deputy commissioner of Housing and Buildings, from 1947-1950. He also organized and served as chairman of the Citizen’s Planning Council, Inc., which was then the top coordinating body between the Harlem community and the city government. In addition he served as deputy marshall for the southern districts of New York City (1947-1950) and as secretary to the Commissioner of Elections."
Rangel went on to say Jones' political savvy contributed to the election of a number of successful politicians and through his "vision" he made "representative politics" a reality.
Rangel said, "To miss J. Raymond Jones, as we all will, is really not enough. To read about him, as political strategists both black and white will inevitably do, may not capture the depth and essence of the man's contributions. The true testimony to the Virgin Islands' born 'Harlem Fox' will be in the continuation of his vision. He set the stage so that true representative politics in the big city could be just that. He taught communities how to organize themselves, and to hold their politicians accountable. He taught other politicians to be fearless of challenges, to be honest, blunt, and diligent in their community service."
In observance of February as Black History Month, the Source will be highlighting a number of contemporary and historic individuals born in the Virgin Islands who have made major contributions in areas including civil rights, science, literature, sports and entertainment.

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