By Donald W. Jones
My father, Philip Henry Jones (1903-1982), was born in central Virginia, in a rural town along the James River. His mother was Native American and African and his father, according to the 1920 census, was White, Mulatto, and Puerto Rican.
In my nearly seventy years, I have not written an article dedicated entirely to my father, although I often speak fondly of him of the many memories we have. My father was complicated and often misunderstood by me, until I went to college. It was then that I stated that “my father grew up.” Actually, after my first course in psychology, I came to understand his many complexities.
Dad, pictured above sitting on the wheel of his tractor, is reaching into his pocket to retrieve his beloved Zippo lighter (guaranteed to light in any wind). The cigarette he is smoking was a “roll-your-own”, using Prince Albert can tobacco. The tractor he is sitting on is a Ford and was a great improvement from the team of mules he used while I was growing up. Dad was a man of many occupations. His list included farmer, carpenter, blacksmith, Ferrier (horse shoeing), mason, lumberjack, and explosive expert.
Each of those occupations carries several stories that would be interesting and humorous, but too numerous to list here. Dad was small in stature but large in heart. Only 5’4” tall and weighing 135 lbs. with two rocks in his back pocket to get to the 135lbs. He would give you the shirt off his back if you wanted it (although it may have been too small for you). After laboriously raising out garden crops, our cousins from the city would come to visit and leave with the trunks of their cars full of the vegetables we (I) had planted. I asked “why?” This is where Dad instilled in me the attitude of giving and helping others. Dad said that we were blessed with enough for ourselves and there was enough to give to others.
He taught me the survival skills that would be necessary in facing the many challenges of life. We must remember that as a young man he grew up during segregation, post WWI, 1929 stock market crash, WWII, and Korean Conflict (later the Viet Nam war where I served). Being accepted as an explosive expert during the fifties was a major accomplishment for a black man. Dad taught me hard work; planning and faith would accomplish much.There are many anecdotes that my family recall’s when “Uncle Phil’s” name is mentioned. I am a better man for what my father instilled in me.