Delayed But Not Denied: Bishop Jones has graduation 47 years later

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Clark Curtis, For the Washington Daily News

In May of 1976, Bishop Samuel Jones, Jr., the founder and CEO of The Purpose of God Annex Outreach Center here in Washington, was so looking forward to walking with his graduating class at Chocowinity High School. However, those dreams were shattered when he was told on the morning of commencement that he would not be allowed to walk with the rest of his classmates. Unable to hold back the tears, Jones shared the events of that day. “I was so happy on graduation day. I was going to make my Mama proud and it would be my first step towards success in life. I really felt that I deserved this day. However, they told me the morning of commencement that I would not be graduating with my classmates because of a low C I had received in my math class. I didn’t know anybody to go to at the school. I felt robbed and that my life would be robbed later on. So I ran all of the way home, laid across my bed, and cried until I went to sleep.”

Jones said he and the rest of his siblings would not be where they are today if it wasn’t for his 89-year-old mother Ethel Bryant. And, of course, gives her all of the credit for him finally receiving his diploma. “I was working at P.S. Jones at the time,” said Bryant. “I happened to know Frank Randolph who was an assistant principal at Washington City Schools. I told him about the situation and got him to tutor my son that summer in math. He got the credit he needed and would finally get his diploma. I would not allow him to be hindered from what God wanted him to be.”  Added Bishop Jones, “Mr. Randolph told my mother that I really knew my math and that I had been robbed. Chocowinity High School called me after I had completed the course to get my diploma and handed it to me like it was nothing.”

Jones’ wife of 42 years, Mother Regina Jones, said she really didn’t know the extent of the internal turmoil that her husband had been going through with regard to his graduation until 2018. “I remember one day when he was speaking with someone about their graduation and they asked him about his. He simply broke down and started crying, and crying, and that is when I learned some of the details.”

From that day Mother Jones was determined to get her husband the graduation and recognition that he rightfully deserved. Between COVID and being totally overwhelmed by the process for the last couple of years, it all finally came together this year. “The Lord let me know nothing before its time and that this year was the time.”

Mother Jones worked meticulously to create the commencement that her husband never had on Saturday, July 15th, at Jon Cotton Tayloe School here in Washington. Family, friends, former classmates, and close associates all gathered together for an afternoon of celebration. “I wanted to call his official graduation day, “Delayed But Not Denied,” said Mother Jones. “For me, it was an opportunity to finally bring some closure, healing, and a sense of pride to this man who had been suffering since 1976. Today was his day to finally walk amidst some of his former classmates.”

His sister, Dr. Beverly L. Browning, the associate provost and VP for academic affairs at Huston-Tillotson University, in Austin, Texas gave the commencement address. “When my sister-in-law called me I did not hesitate to come here for the event,” said Browning. “I call this a Back to the Future moment, as very seldom do we have the opportunity to hold a commencement for someone after the fact. We are not sitting here wondering what they will do in life. We know exactly what this person has accomplished after being held back because of one grade. He has done mighty work and provided so many services for the community. I really admire and couldn’t be prouder of him. I moved away to do my thing, and he stayed right here to do his.”

Browning and her younger sister were also there to present Bishop Jones, attired in a replica of his blue graduation cap, white gown, and red tie, with his high school diploma. The same colors are believed to have been used by the school in the bicentennial year of 1976. “This day means so much to me,” said Cassandra Jones, his youngest sister. “I had no idea how painful this had all been for him. Just being able to see him attain the goal that had been denied him and for him to finally complete this long journey, is beyond words.”

Added his son, Joshua Jones, Sr., “Oh man, this day meant a lot to me. He has always been there with support for me during the good and bad times. It made me so happy to see him so happy and to finally see his dream come true. This day was truly beautiful in so many ways.”

Since 1990, Bishop Jones’ accomplishments have been many. In 1990 he became the pastor and founder of The Purpose of God Evangelistic Centré and was consecrated to the office of Bishop in 1998. After founding The Purpose of God Annex Outreach Center in 1999, he would establish Project New Hope in 2007, a court alternative program to going to prison. Over the course of 12 years, he was able to place over 2,050 individuals with criminal records into the workforce. During the pandemic, Bishop Jones opened the Share Shop and Sorting Center with the mission to give out free clothes, furniture, and appliances to those in need. He also created a food distribution project called Miracle Meals.

Among the dignitaries in attendance was Chief District Court Judge of the 2nd Judicial District, Regina Parker. “I have been on the bench now for 22 years and I am privileged to say that I have known you and your wife for 20 of those,” said Parker. “It is truly an honor for me to be here today and to honor you. The hearts of Bishop Jones and Mother Jones led us to be friends and partners over the years. I am so grateful that you have continued to be a servant in that you have helped so many associated with the court system, that others may have counted out, and have embraced them and given them a second chance. I am grateful to you for your willingness to care for people as you have the heart of God. And may He continue to bless, honor, and keep you and use you mightily for the rest of your life.”

Today Bishop Jones was given the opportunity to attend his own personal graduation ceremony with family and friends. “This day has been totally overwhelming for me,” said Bishop Jones. “Never did I think that government officials, judges, lawyers, business owners, professors, and family would take this moment in time to come together and honor me. It made me feel so validated for everything that I missed out on. I feel that I gained more in this graduation than I ever would have back in 1976. This day was for me and I didn’t have to share it with anyone else. And I’m so proud, grateful, and humbled by everything my wife has done not only today but for the last 42 years. This is one of those historic moments in my life that I will never forget. And now my tears are dried up about this and I don’t have to cry anymore.”