Harry L. Jones, 72, professor, art collector

September 07, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Harry L. Jones, a longtime English professor at Morgan State University and an avid art collector, died Thursday of natural causes at his Waverly home in Northeast Baltimore. He was 72.

Dr. Jones taught at Morgan State from 1954 to 1986 and was head of the English department in the 1970s. He specialized in English literature and had a keen knowledge of the works of Shakespeare and Middle English authors, especially Chaucer.

"He had a vast knowledge of everything. The man was like an encyclopedia," said Ralph Reckley, one of Dr. Jones' former students at Morgan State and the current head of the school's English department.

"There wasn't any subject that Harry Jones couldn't come forth on."

A stocky man who carefully chose and pronounced his words, Dr. Jones had an unassuming manner and an easy smile. He often amazed students by delivering long, detailed lectures without notes or books.

He was also known for standing in the hall in front of his classroom five to 10 minutes before class and greeting his students.

"He'd just speak to them individually as friends, and about nothing special," said Ruthe T. Sheffey, a Morgan State professor and longtime friend.

From 1972 to 1981 -- while a full-time professor at Morgan State -- Dr. Jones commuted by train twice a week to Philadelphia, where he taught black studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Burney Hollis, a Morgan State professor and dean of the school's college of arts and sciences, was one of Dr. Jones' graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania. He recalled Dr. Jones' using notes once in class.

"His notes said, 'Walk away from podium. Leave notes. Show off,' " Dr. Hollis said. "He did it perfectly."

A native of Elizabeth City, N.C., Dr. Jones served in the Army from the early 1940s until 1946. He was assigned to the Pacific in World War II and received a Purple Heart.

He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in English from Howard University in Washington, in 1948 and 1949, respectively. He earned a doctorate, also in English, from Catholic University in Washington in 1966.

Dr. Jones married Winifred E. Walker in 1950, and they both taught English at the American University in Denmark from 1950 to 1952. The couple returned to the United States in 1952, and Dr. Jones taught English at Southern University in Louisiana until 1954. Dr. and Mrs. Jones divorced in 1974.

When he began teaching at Morgan State, Dr. Jones lived in Washington, but he moved to Baltimore in 1975. At his Waverly home, he collected a vast gallery of varied art -- mostly by black artists -- that he loved showing to friends.

"He was just a brilliant guy. He was a role model," said Dr. Eugenia Collier, a former colleague at Morgan State. "He was a master teacher in terms of inspiring students to be the best they can."

No service is planned. The family will receive friends tomorrowfrom 1 p.m to 5 p.m. at Dr. Jones' home, 550 E. 38th St.

Dr. Jones is survived by a son, Kenneth L. Jones of San Francisco; a daughter, Kasey Jones of Baltimore; and a granddaughter, Rachel Jones of San Francisco.

Pub Date: 9/07/97

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