Bob Jones III

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Bob Jones III
Jones in 2011
3rd President of Bob Jones University
In office
Preceded byBob Jones, Jr.
Succeeded byStephen Jones
Personal details
Robert Reynolds Jones III

(1939-08-08) August 8, 1939 (age 83)
Cleveland, Tennessee
  • Beneth Peters Jones (1937–2019)
    (m. 1959; died 2019)
  • Karen Rowe
    (m. 2020)
Children3, including Stephen Jones
ResidenceGreenville, South Carolina
Alma materBob Jones University
ProfessionCollege chancellor, clergyman

Robert Reynolds Jones III (born August 8, 1939), son of Bob Jones Jr. and grandson of Bob Jones Sr., served as the third president of Bob Jones University from 1971 to 2005.


Jones was born in Cleveland, Tennessee, the son of Fannie May (Holmes) and Bob Jones, Jr. Jones moved with his family to Greenville, South Carolina in 1947 when Bob Jones College built a new campus and became Bob Jones University.[1] Because his father was a connoisseur of the arts, Jones III early visited Europe and the Levant on his father's summer tours. As a teenager, Jones was given minor roles in campus Shakespeare performances and a major role in the film version of his father's novel Wine of Morning. Likewise, as the son and grandson of well-known fundamentalists, Jones III met many politicians and notable preachers in his youth.

At fifteen, his father rusticated Jones to a summer camp sponsored by Ernest Reveal, a BJU board member and the founder of the Evansville Rescue Mission, where Jones preached and otherwise participated in the camp's evangelistic ministry to children experiencing poverty from the Evansville area. Jones credited this experience with having had a significant impact on his later career.

Jones completed his bachelor of arts (1959) and master of arts (1961) in speech from Bob Jones University and took additional courses in speech and drama at Northwestern University and New York University. He also received honorary degrees from two small Bible schools and a seminary.

Although less intellectually gifted than his father, Jones III did excel academically. Unlike his father, though, Jones III also developed an interest in athletics—basketball as a young man, and later skiing, hunting, and other outdoor sports. Jones enjoyed flying and considered a military career.

Nevertheless, by the end of his undergraduate years, Jones believed that he had been called to "help perpetuate the ideals and standards" of the school his grandfather founded. Jones served as a teaching assistant in the speech department and then as a dormitory supervisor. Between 1961 and 1971, his father provided him with a growing administrative role in the university, including preaching for campus services. Jones also accepted an increasing number of off-campus speaking invitations.

Unlike his father, Jones III became genuinely interested in the mechanics of university administration, although his training for his college presidency was, like his father's, informal at best. To help with business judgments, Jones eventually appointed a personal friend and former businessperson, Bob Wood, as vice president. Rather shy and "reticent to initiate conversations with strangers", Jones was also a highly competitive, 'Type A' personality who regularly worked sixteen hours a day during his presidency.[2] In conjunction with the university's 70th-anniversary celebration, Governor David Beasley presented him with the Order of the Palmetto.[3]

Jones inherited the Bob Jones University presidency as its enrollment increased. However, the school also began to face the federal government's opposition to its racial policies. During the early 1980s, Jones was frequently interviewed by the media, arguing that the university's racial policies were protected by First Amendment rights. Nevertheless, Jones had difficulty finding a route of escape from the positions on race that his predecessors had adopted during the period of segregation in the early twentieth-century South, and which he had endorsed in his youth.

In December 2014, as part of a BJU-commissioned investigation to determine if students had "received inadequate help when they reported to a BJU representative that they had been abused or assaulted at some point in their past," G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), an independent Christian organization, reported that Jones III had "repeatedly demonstrated a significant lack of understanding regarding the many painful dynamics associated with sexual abuse"[4] and recommended BJU take "personnel action" against him.[5]

Until her death in 2019, Jones was married to Beneth Peters Jones, an author and seminar speaker, whom he had gotten to know when she played Roxane to his Christian in a campus performance of Cyrano de Bergerac. They had three children. In March 2020, he married Karen Rowe, a member of the BJU English faculty.[6] Jones's younger son, Stephen, replaced him as president of BJU in May 2005 when Jones III took the title, "Chancellor."

Jones III remains chair of the International Testimony to an Infallible Bible and chair of the board of directors of the Bob Jones University Museum & Gallery. Jones continues to speak regularly for churches, schools, evangelistic campaigns, youth rallies, and other religious gatherings in his eighties.[7]

Religious, political, and social views[edit]

  • Bob Jones III once declared that BJU had banned interracial dating because "God has separated people for His own purpose"; nevertheless, on March 3, 2000, he announced on Larry King Live that the university would abandon the long-standing rule over which the university had forfeited its federal tax-exempt status in 1983.[8]
  • In 1980, Jones said the problem of homosexuality would be solved "posthaste if homosexuals were stoned."[9] In March 2015 he issued a public apology for this statement, saying in part that it was, "antithetical to my theology and my 50 years of preaching a redeeming Christ. Upon now reading these long-forgotten words, they seem to me as words belonging to a total stranger — were my name not attached. I cannot erase them, but wish I could, because they do not represent the belief of my heart or the content of my preaching. Neither before, nor since, that event in 1980 have I ever advocated the stoning of sinners."[10]
  • In 1982, when asked by TV talk show host Phil Donahue, "Does anybody get to heaven if he's not born again?" Jones replied, "Absolutely not. Jesus told Nicodemus, a religious man, 'You must be born again.'...The Lord Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.'"[11]
  • In the 1980s, Jones once denounced Ronald Reagan as 'a traitor to God's people' for choosing as his vice president George H. W. Bush, whom Jones called "a devil."[12] Some years later, however, while visiting the Oval Office, he thanked the elder Bush for being a good president.[8][13]
  • Jones referred to Catholicism as "the religion of the anti-Christ and a Satanic system" and called Mormonism and Catholicism "cults which call themselves Christian".[14] In October 2007, he endorsed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a devout Mormon, for the Republican nomination for president.[15]
  • Shortly after George W. Bush won re-election in 2004, Bob Jones III sent a congratulatory letter to the president declaring that he had "been given a mandate....Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ."[16]
  • In 2011, referring to Barack Obama's religion, Jones said, "Some people will say whatever they think the politically helpful thing would be.... I say, 'Where is the evidence that he is a Christian?'" [17]
  • Jones's most often repeated quotation: "The most sobering reality in the world today is that people are dying and going to Hell today."[18]


  1. ^ Greenville News, January 3, 2004
  2. ^ Turner, 220; Steve Skaggs, "A Link in the Chain: The Soulwinning Heart of Dr. Bob III: An Interview," Voice of the Alumni, 80 (Spring 2007), 6. "Witnessing has never been easy for me. I'm a private person....I can only think with great regret of opportunities I let go because I was intimidated, afraid, uncaring."
  3. ^ "Investiture of Stephen D. Pettit as Fifth President of Bob Jones University" "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-09-23. Retrieved 2014-09-19.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link).
  4. ^ BJU website-GRACE background; "Investigatory Review of Sexual Abuse Disclosures and Institutional Responses at Bob Jones University" (PDF). G.R.A.C.E. 11 December 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 February 2015. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  5. ^ Perez-Pena, Richard (11 December 2014). "Bob Jones University Blamed Victims of Sexual Assaults, Not Abusers, Report Says". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  6. ^ "How God Has Directed Dr. Bob Jones III to Remarry". 3 March 2020.
  7. ^ BJU website
  8. ^ a b Washington Post
  9. ^ Grindley, Lucas (2012-08-21). "The 45 Biggest Homophobes of Our 45 Years". Retrieved 2015-03-22.
  10. ^ "Bob Jones III apologizes for anti-gay comments from 1980". 2015-03-21. Retrieved 2015-03-22.
  11. ^ Turner, 218.
  12. ^ New York Post, February 28, 2000
  13. ^ "I was not convinced that the first George Bush was a real conservative. I was afraid that he had ties to certain organizations that revealed what he really was, that his public rhetoric was hiding what he really was. And devils deal in treachery like that, in deceit. 'Devil' may have been a strong word, but you know what? He turned out to be a whole lot better president than I expected, and I shook his hand in the Oval Office and thanked him for being a good president."
  14. ^ Archived March 12, 2005, at the Wayback Archived 2008-10-10 at the Wayback Machine[better source needed]
  15. ^ Greenville News, October 16, 2007.[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ "Does Bush Owe the Religious Right," Time, February 7, 2005.
  17. ^ "Bob Jones III becomes latest Christian leader to challenge Obama's Christianity", November 14, 2011..
  18. ^ Skaggs, "Link in the Chain," 6.
  • Daniel L. Turner, Standing Without Apology: The History of Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC: BJU Press, 1997)

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by President of Bob Jones University
Succeeded by