Dr. H. G. Jones, archivist, historian, teacher, author and member of “America’s Greatest Generation,” died October 14, 2018, at The Arbor, Galloway Ridge at Fearrington, Pittsboro, North Carolina. He was ninety-four years, nine months and seven days old- a life packed with consummate learning and activity.
Houston Gwynne Jones was born on January 7, 1924, on a tenant farm near Kill Quick in Locust Hill Township, of western Caswell County. 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. Following the war, he was graduated from Appalachian State Teachers College in 1949 and received a master’s degree from George Peabody College the following year. 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. Dr. Jones also taught briefly at Western Carolina Teachers College and West Georgia College before, in 1956, being appointed State Archivist of North Carolina.
Upon the retirement of the much revered Dr. C.C. Crittenden in 1968 Dr. Jones was elected Director of the State Department of Archives and History- shepherding it into becoming the largest and most comprehensive state historical agency in the Union. In addition to developing the nation’s 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 of and restoring the nineteenth-century splendor of the “Old Gray Lady,” our 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 nation.
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. In 1980 he served as President of the Historical Society of North Carolina. 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 state’s highest civilian award, the coveted North Carolina Award for Public Service.
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.
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.
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 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 state’s 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.
Celebrations of the life of Dr. H. G. Jones were 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, UNC-Chapel Hill.
Memorials may be addressed to the North Caroliniana Society, UNC Campus Box 3930, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-8890.
Dr. Jones will be remembered at the HSNC Spring 2019 meeting at Campbell University.