OCPS's Jones High School

Jones High School

Jones High Celebrates 125 Years of Trailblazing
Jones High Celebrates 125 Years of TrailblazingZariah Boykin, 16, chose to attend Jones High School in part because her grandfather graduated from there in 1949. On a recent school day, she saw an open door near the media center and peeked in. On walls and in display cases, the Jones High School Historical Society has assembled documents, photographs and memorabilia from the long, storied history of the school.

In 1882, the first Orlando school for blacks was organized on the southwest corner of South Garland and West Church streets, a spot now under the I-4 overpass. Named Johnson Academy, honor of its principal, Lymus Johnson, it opened in 1895 at the corner of West Jefferson St. and Chatham Ave., near the current location of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church.

LC JonesJohnson served until 1921, when L.C. Jones (pictured) was named principal. That year a two-story brick building was built for Johnson Academy’s sixth- to twelfth-grade students on land donated by Principal Jones’ family. The school then was renamed Jones High School in his honor. (That building is now the JB Callahan Neighborhood Center on Parramore Avenue.)

A new Jones High campus was built in 1952 on Rio Grande Ave., despite protests at the time that the location was in a white area.

At each location, Jones has served as a community rallying point and center of life for generations of black families in and around Orlando, inspiring pride in students’ academic, musical and athletic accomplishments. The school had a family atmosphere; teachers were strict but loving and held high expectations for their Tigers.

Gerri Bateman, a 1964 Jones grad, fondly remembers her time as a cheerleader and learning to sew in home economics class.

“The teachers cared so much about me. If you needed somebody to talk to, they always had a kind word,” she said.

A few years after Bateman graduated, the school faced a new threat. In 1969, Orange County Public Schools began closing black high schools as it worked to comply with a federal desegregation order. Jones High was being considered for closure. Students protested with a massive boycott, staying home on a school day. The public pressure worked – the school stayed open.

Gerri BatemanBateman ended up becoming a teacher and now helps staff and curate the Jones High School Historical Society Museum at the school. The current Jones campus was built in 2005 and is undergoing a major capital renewal project in 2020 that includes upgrades to the air conditioning system; a new roof; new stairs for the classroom building; and new sealants, paint and signage for the exterior.

The museum is generally open Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon. and by appointment. To check hours or make an appointment, call the school at (407) 835-2300.

Inside, the museum includes trophies; event programs; framed photos of student groups and prominent alumni; photo albums; and dozens of yearbooks. Display cases include items such as letter jackets and the school bell rung by Principal Cullen Banks between 1935 and 1954.

Prominent Jones graduates include Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings; theoretical physicist Professor S. James Gates Jr.; retired Florida Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr.; OCPS’ first African American School Board Member, Kattie Adams; and the Rev. Canon Nelson W. Pinder, a church leader and civil rights activist.

Boykin, who is a student in the Medical Magnet program, browsed the shelves for a photo of her grandfather, Linwood Boykin. Unfortunately, his graduation year was missing.

“I knew some of the history but had never stepped in here before,” she said of the museum. “I want to come here more often.”

For a calendar and more information about the Jones High School 125th Anniversary Celebration activities, visit www.joneshs.ocps.net; Facebook: @Jones High School – OCPS; Twitter: @Jones_OCPS; and Instagram: @joneshighschoolocps.
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