nes worked the farm in the mornings and looked for odd jobs in the afternoons.
Eventually, Robert and Elizabeth separated. His wife left him and the children and moved to Oklahoma City. Eventually, the kids moved to the capitol city one at a time. Robert followed and found a construction job at Tinker Air Force Base.
A few years later, he was hired as a metalworker for the Civil Aviation Administration. He started work three days after Christmas in 1953. Six months later, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling. But segregation continued in Oklahoma.
“Segregation was unimaginable,” he said. “Now, I was there. I know.”
‘I think we’re doing all right’
Protests began. Black children sat in whites-only restaurants. Jones followed all the stories.
But while tension escalated throughout Oklahoma and the country, Jones’ job was a haven. He worked with blacks and whites and Native Americans; they all got along.
“It was a good place,” he said.
Jones keeps his work memories latched inside a faded blue suitcase. He has photos, letters and pay stubs. In one photo, Jones stands among everyone who received an award for outstanding service. The only black faces are his and a coworker who was the pastor at his church, St. Mark’s Baptist. Jones won the award again. He always tried to improve himself, he said.
“You can learn something every day in the work field, after you learn to pay attention and where to look,” he said. “But that’s life in general.”
At age 103, Jones still pays attention.
He watches Meet the Press every Sunday and Atlanta Braves baseball when it’s in season. He talks politics, cuts his own hair and does his own banking. He prays a lot. He sees visitors often. He has 20 grandchildren, probably more than 30 great-grandchildren, he said, and then he loses count of the generations after that. He celebrated his 103rd birthday last month, and the potluck dinner turned into a two-day parade of loved ones.
His health is good, though he has trouble hearing and seeing sometimes. He’s colorblind. But he feels good about the world he lives in today. And he is grateful he lived long enough to have the privilege, he said, of voting for someone of color as president. The election bodes well for America, he said.
“I think we’re coming along pretty good,” he said. “I think we’re doing all right.”
One Man, One Vote