Dr. Thomas Jones (Courtesy Photo)

Dr. Thomas Jones, an ophthalmologist who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., and passed the importance of health, serving others, and the beauty of Blackness on to his family, died Jan. 23 after an extended illness.

Dr King and Dr Jones

Dr King and Dr Jones

Jones was born on July 10, 1920 in Columbus, Ohio. He attended Florida A&M University on a football scholarship and played quarterback, and later attended Meharry Medical School, from which he graduated in 1945.

“He was jovial,” Lillian Jones, Thomas Jones’s wife of 66 years, recalled. “He liked to make people laugh.”

“He wanted to help people, and he wanted everybody to know about the accomplishments of other Black people,” she added.

That desire to help others, combined with his love of Black people and history, led Jones to participate in a number of marches during the civil rights era, including Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama, which celebrates its 50th anniversary later this year.

Jones even took two of his children on some of those marches, including his daughter, Jahari Michelle Adjiri.

“He loved people period, but he really loved Black people, and he hated to see the atrocities that minimized people of color,” Adjiri told the AFRO. “I could tell that it really hurt him to see how we were minimized, and the racism. Even though he was very light skinned with green eyes, he was very proud of his Blackness and he didn’t try to hide it. He could’ve ‘passed’ but he didn’t, he kind of waived his flag for being Black and proud.”

Selma March

Jones’s boldness and activism was not limited to civil rights, however. Adjiri lovingly recalled her father’s tendency to pullover his car to approach teenagers he would see smoking cigarettes on the sidewalk and speak to them about their health.

“I used to say, ‘Daddy those kids will jump on you, or cuss you out, or whatever, you can’t do that.’ And he would just say, ‘Somebody’s got to tell them.’ He was very, very health conscious,” said Adjiri, who added that all four of Jones’s children are now vegetarians, having inherited a passion for health from their father.

Indeed, health has become something of a family tradition for the extended Jones clan, which counts two other medical doctors (Jones’s son Wendell Jones and grandson David Omari Jones), a registered nurse (granddaughter Laila Jones), a health advocate and entrepreneur (Adjiri), and a med student (granddaughter Shani Jones, daughter of Wendell).

Lillian and Thomas Jones

Another son, David Jones (father of David Omari and Laila) received his Ph.D. in ancient African history. That family inheritance dates back to Thomas Jones’s own father, who made financial investments in Ghana after the west African nation achieved independence and stressed to Thomas Jones the importance of taking pride in his African roots.

Jones, who was an ophthalmologist by specialization, also cared deeply for the patients under his care.

“Some of his patients, who could not get to the hospital, he, as a surgeon, would pick them up from their homes, take them to the hospital and operate on them,” said Lillian Jones.

“And then sometimes take them back home,” added Adjiri

With Jones now on his way back home, the lifelong lover of medicine has donated his body to science in lieu of burial.

Jones is survived by his wife Lillian; children Dr. David Jones, Jahari Michelle Adjiri, Dr. Wendell Jones, and Daryl Blackwell; grandchildren Dr. David Omari Jones, Laila Jones, Shani Jones, Kayli Jones, Kayin Jones, TJ Jones, Ayana Bass, Daryl Kamara Blackwell, and Ava Blackwell; and great-grandchildren Demi and Amari Myers.