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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

The Legacy of Wofford’s first Black graduate

Doug+Jones+%E2%80%9869+poses+with+his+son+and+grandson%2C+who+all+went+to+Wofford+following+his+graduation.+Jones+was+the+first+Black+graduate+of+the+College.
Mark Olencki
Doug Jones ‘69 poses with his son and grandson, who all went to Wofford following his graduation. Jones was the first Black graduate of the College.

In 1964, Wofford College desegregated its formerly all-white campus. Doug Jones ‘69 broke the long streak of white-only graduates. Encouraged by his legacy, Jones’ son, Jarvis Jones ‘04, and grandson, Hayden Jones ‘25, followed in his footsteps.

A good friend of Doug Jones, Albert Gray ‘71, was the first African American student to enroll in the college. He encouraged Jones to take the leap and enroll in the college as well. 

“My first year that I was there, Albert Gray was there for maybe half a year and he dropped out. I think his version of it is that he got drafted,” Jones said. “Regardless, he ‘sorta’ left me there by myself.”

Gray’s sudden departure in 1965 deeply affected Jones.

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“Some of the students felt like they had run Albert away and the attitude was that they were going to run me away,” he said. “Also, you gotta realize that back then South Carolina was about as much of an apartheid system as South Africa was at the time. There was a lot of prejudice and discrimination.”

Throughout his educational history, Jones attended Black-only schools until he graduated from Carrboro High school. For Jones, Downtown Spartanburg was the only location nearby where both Black and white people coexisted. Jones recalls it taking some getting used to for everyone. 

Jones said that there was a lot of discrimination, but he was determined to follow through. Despite this determination, Jones was faced with another obstacle. He watched as the Vietnam War draft inhabited the minds of Americans everywhere, leaving his country in turmoil. 

“You either went to college or Uncle Sam had a place for you,” Jones said. “You put on a uniform and you went to Vietnam.”

The pressure of the war draft gave Jones the stamina he needed to continue. He knew he had to graduate because the alternative was Vietnam. 

Back then, during a student’s first two years at Wofford, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) was mandatory. However, Jones decided to go beyond what was required and completed the advanced ROTC. By completing four years of ROTC, he was able to graduate without being drafted.

Following Jones’ graduation, a remarkable milestone for Wofford, he furthered his education at the University of South Carolina, which had integrated but was still predominantly white.

“When I was on campus, you maybe had less than maybe 10 (Black people) on the entire campus,” he said. 

Jones’ first job was at Spartanburg Technical College, now Spartanburg Community College. During this time, he was nearly safe from the military, until he was called to serve on active duty. Jones was in the  Corps of Engineers and spent time at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, before spending the rest of his time in inactive reserve. 

His return back home was anything but fluid. None of the units in Spartanburg were receptive to a Black officer, so he got a deferment and was officially inactive. Additionally, the anti-Vietnam sentiment was ever present on South Carolina campuses, so demonstrations and riots plagued the universities. 

“The country was in turmoil during those times,” Jones said. “Very turbulent times.”

Additionally, The Old Gold & Black is lucky enough to say that he was a writer during his time at Wofford, inspired by his experiences and the country around him. He continued this writing after graduation as well, leaving a legacy for many to remember him by. 

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About the Contributor
Catherine Lesesne, Staff Writer
English Major from Greensboro, NC
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