Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones

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Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones, Sr.
Born(1905-08-06)August 6, 1905
DiedApril 9, 1982(1982-04-09) (aged 76)
Alma materSouthern University
Columbia University
OccupationPresident and baseball coach, Grambling State University
Spouse(s)Mildred Shay Jones (m. 1937; d. 1953[1])
ChildrenRalph Jones, Jr.

John Arthur Jones
Ralph Eldridge Jones
Ernest Emerson Jones

Warren Waldo Jones
R.W.E. Jones in 1969 receives the honorary LL.D. degree from Louisiana Tech University president F. Jay Taylor.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones, Sr. (August 6, 1905 – April 9, 1982), also known as Ralph W. E. Jones or Prez Jones, was from 1936 until his retirement in 1977 the second president of historically black Grambling State University in Grambling in Lincoln Parish in north Louisiana.


The grandson of a slave, Jones was born in Lake Charles, the seat of Calcasieu Parish in southwestern Louisiana. His father, John Sebastian Jones, was the first dean of historically black Southern University in Baton Rouge, from which Jones received his bachelor's degree. His mother, the former Marie Morrison, was a schoolteacher in Lake Charles.[2] Jones obtained a master's degree from Columbia University in New York City. Though often addressed as "Doctor", Jones did not have an earned doctorate but honorary awards from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston and the University of Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland.[3]

Grambling career[edit]

After a short stint at the former Lamson College in Alexandria, Louisiana, Jones came to Grambling in 1926, when it was the two-year Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institution.[3] There he taught chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Having been a player in the former Negro League, Jones launched the Grambling baseball team. He also was the dean of men and the college registrar. Under his tenure, Grambling grew from 120 students to a peak of 4,200, nearly all African Americans. The school grew from a few modest buildings to a multimillion-dollar physical plant under Jones's leadership.[3] When Jones was only thirty, he became both the president of the school and the baseball coach as well.[2] His actual total Grambling service, 1926 to 1977, exceeded fifty years.[3]

Jones started the college marching band[2] and even composed the Grambling Tigers alma mater. For seventeen years, Wilbert Ellis, a Ruston native and 1959 Grambling graduate, was Jones's assistant baseball coach; in 1977. Between 1958 and 1967, Jones's teams rumbled through conference play, winning seven titles between 1958 and 1967 and gaining induction into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame after leading his teams to national baseball tournaments in 1961, 1963, 1964, and 1967. He was national coach of the year in 1967.[4]

Jones was the school's first head football coach,[5] holding that position from 1928 to 1931 and accruing a record of 4–7–1.[6] In 1941, Jones hired the inexperienced Eddie Robinson to lead the team. Robinson amassed what was a college football record for career wins—408—from 1941 to 1997. Of Jones, Robinson said, "Boy, oh, boy, he was some kind of guy. There were many times I thought that if he hadn't come along to hire me, that I might have gotten caught on the streets in Baton Rouge. I thank God that Dr. Jones just grabbed me and took me. ... President Jones was my teacher, even when I did not realize it."[4] The Grambling campus is now the home of the Eddie Robinson Museum.

Grambling is just east of Louisiana Tech University. Jones's last fifteen years as the Grambling president coincided with that of the Tech president F. Jay Taylor,[7] who presented Jones with an honorary doctorate.[3] Other area college presidents during Jones's latter tenure were Arnold R. Kilpatrick of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.[8] and George T. Walker of the University of Louisiana at Monroe, then known as Northeast Louisiana University, in Monroe.[9] Like Taylor, Walker, and Kilpatrick, Jones worked with governors and legislators to obtain vital funding for his institution.[3]

Death and legacy[edit]

Jones died at the age of 76 in Ruston's Lincoln General Hospital of complications from gallbladder surgery.[2] He was a deacon at the New Rocky Valley Baptist Church in Grambling. Jones was survived by two sons, Ralph Jones, Jr., and John Arthur Jones, both of Baltimore, Maryland, three grandsons, Ralph Eldridge Jones, Ellison Emerson Jones, and Warren Waldo Jones, and five sisters.[3] He was preceded in death by his wife, Mildred Shay Jones, who died in 1953.[1] He was interred at Grambling Memorial Gardens.[10]

In 2006, Frances Swayzer Conley of Shreveport, an English professor at Bossier Parish Community College, published the illustrated book Prez Lives! Remembering Grambling's Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones.[11] Jones developed the slogan: "Grambling: Where Everybody is Somebody."[3]

Black author James O. McHenry refers to Jones, accordingly:

Prez was one of the greatest men that I have ever met because he was right down here with you. He was a country boy himself, and he taught you everything. ... Prez knew where you came from and what you hadn't been exposed to ... He didn't impose upon you to do anything because he taught you what you were supposed to know. ... He would call us into meetings and talk to us like we were his children. He knew what his black people needed. ... He believed in taking you from where he found you and progressing from there. He would say "Don't tell me what you don't know. Just tell me that you want to learn." That's the kind of man Prez was. . ...[12]

RWE Jones Drive, named for former Grambling State University President Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones, is one of the main thoroughfares in Grambling.

In May 2011, the Grambling baseball stadium was named in Jones' honor. On July 3, 2011, Jones was posthumously inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame in Lubbock, Texas.[13]

In addition to the baseball stadium, R.W.E. Jones Drive in Grambling is named in the former president's honor. Prez as he was referred to was a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.


  1. ^ a b "Ex-Grambling head Ralph Jones dies". Baton Rouge Morning Advocate (sec. A, p. 1). April 10, 1982.
  2. ^ a b c d "Ralph W. E. Jones, Ex-Head of Grambling". The New York Times, April 10, 1982. April 11, 1982. Retrieved July 7, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones, "Then Sings My Soul, My Savior, God To Thee; How Great Thou Art, How Great Thou Art!"". contentdm.auctr.edu. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
  4. ^ a b "Grambling Legends: Ralph Waldo Emerson "Prez" Jones". gramblinglegends.net. Retrieved July 7, 2011.
  5. ^ Creamer, Robert (March 30, 1970). "Scorecard". Sports Illustrated: 13. Retrieved May 10, 2019.
  6. ^ "Grambling St. Coaching Records". CFB Data Warehouse. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  7. ^ "Dr. F. Jay Taylor". Shreveport Times, May 17, 2011. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  8. ^ "Home Named in Honor of Former NSU President". Northwesternalumni.com. Archived from the original on March 18, 2012. Retrieved May 22, 2009.
  9. ^ "George T. Walker". Monroe News Star. Retrieved July 6, 2011.
  10. ^ "Mourners pay respects to Grambling's Jones". Baton Rouge Morning Advocate (sec. D, p. 16). April 12, 1982.
  11. ^ Prez Lives! Remembering Grambling's Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4120-9653-9.
  12. ^ McHenry, James O. (2010). The Indigenous Black People of Monroe, Louisiana and the Surrounding Cities, Towns, and Villages: A 100-Year Documentary. Self-published. p. 100. ISBN 978-1-4535-8859-8. Retrieved July 6, 2013.
  13. ^ "Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones to be Inducted into College Baseball Hall of Fame". gsutigers.com, June 25, 2011. Retrieved July 7, 2011.
Preceded by
Charles P. Adams
President of Grambling State University

Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones

Succeeded by
Joseph Benjamin Johnson