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The loss of a Lifelong Friend of Minister Louis and Khadijah Farrakhan: Boston shows appreciation for the life of Clarence ‘Jeep’ Jones

By Ralph Muhammad, Nisa Islam Muhammad, Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad | Last updated: Feb 12, 2020 - 11:21:37 AM

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The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, his wife Mother Khadijah Farrakhan with their longtime friend Clarence Jack “Jeep” Jones during a visit to his home in Boston last year. Jeep was a longtime Boston area community leader whose work and efforts benefited many Bostonians. The Farrakhan’s and Jeep were lifelong friends.

BOSTON—Oceans of Bostonians and others traveled to the historic 12th Baptist Church to participate in a two-day celebration of the life of Boston’s own Clarence Jack “Jeep” Jones. Though only standing approximately 5’ 6”, he was a giant of a man for his work in the local community and beyond. Hundreds paid their respects during the viewing and reflections on the first day, and there were overflowing participants for his homegoing celebration, Feb. 8. Jeep passed away Feb. 1 at age 86.

A very close friend of approximately 70 years and college classmate of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan at Winston State Teachers College in the 1950s, Jeep professed a profoundly unique and unmitigated relationship with Minister Farrakhan and his wife that never wavered. During the Minister’s last trip to Boston, his first order of business was to visit his ailing childhood friend.

Jeep Jones mentored hundreds of youth via programs established such as one with the late Reverend Dr. Michael Haynes at the late Boston’s Norfolk House, which was named the Exquisites. It was a program that developed young men in the 1950s-1960s and geared many to college experiences that they never thought to be capable of. Minister Farrakhan, in a letter that was read at the funeral service by his local Boston Representative Randy Muhammad, declared:

“Words are inadequate to express the sense of loss my wife Khadijah, formerly known as Betsy Ross, and I feel. My wife has known ‘Jeep’ Jones from her childhood and was always a friend of the entire Jones family long before I had the pleasure of meeting Clarence ‘Jeep’ Jones.”

The Minister’s letter continued, “I met him as a young teenager and he welcomed me into what was then called the ‘Oakie Tigers.’ He shepherded me in my youth as I gained my footing in the new reality of being with the ‘Oakie Tigers.’ I found him to be one of the most magnificent human beings I have had the pleasure to meet in my life.”

The two men were college roommates and watched and studied each other grow during the years, continued Min. Farrakhan’s letter.

“He was a man of deep and abiding faith, love and charity, to all who knew him from his youth to the last time I embraced him in his humble home when my wife and I, and members of our family came to Boston for the funeral of another great son of Roxbury, Reverend Michael Haynes. With tears in his eyes and mine, we told each other of the deep and lasting love we had for one another. When we love like this it is truly hard to say ‘goodbye’. As long as there is life in those of us who remain behind, as we take ‘Jeep’ to his final resting place, let us in our remaining days, try to make Boston, America and our World a better place as we leave it than when we found it at our coming to birth.”

Min. Farrakhan hugs his good friend Clarence “Jeep” Jones as his son Mustapha Farrakhan looks on. The Minister and Mr. Jones were lifelong friends and roommates in college.

Further, Jeep worked in many capacities with the city of Boston for over 50 years. He was the first and only Black deputy mayor of Boston, a juvenile probation officer, served and chaired the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and received awards too many to name. One of his greatest of accomplishments was being in a position to open access to employment to Blacks in city government. Prior to Jeep being in position in Boston City Hall, opportunities for Blacks to be employed by the city were very limited. Those doors were opened with Jeep’s presence and influence in the administration. He was the go-to man if you had any problem. Many attested to what he had did for them and their families during memorial services. As his daughter, Melissa, shared at the funeral, many people would approach her and tell what her father did for them. Yet when she told her father what she was told, he wouldn’t remember or it was no big thing to him, she recalled. He helped because he could, not for acclaim, notoriety, or looking for any payback. Clarence Jack “Jeep” Jones was a genuine servant of the people.

In 1976 when he started as the first Black deputy mayor, he was the highest-ranking Black official ever in city government. “He was my mentor and a brother from another mother,” said Elsita Harris. She knew him when they were teens and worked under him. “He was a humble, God-loving man, one that can never be replaced. The city of Boston is at a loss right now.”

“He employed Black people in jobs they didn’t have access to before. He led kids to college whether he drove them or paid their tuition. He was a probation officer, a social worker and a schoolteacher. He was the only deputy mayor in Boston that grew up in Roxbury and never left the community,” she added.

“He was a very good man. He opened the city hall for Black people. Before that, it was a good old boy network and we couldn’t get any jobs. He got us jobs. There’s even a park named after him. Boston was small back then and we were like one big family,” added another Boston resident.

Mr. Jones grew up in Roxbury and went to Winston Salem State University. He worked his way to the top of Mayor Kevin White’s administration. Before his appointment as deputy mayor he led the city’s Youth Activities Commission for three years and the Office of Human Rights for four years.

“I was on the staff of Jeep when he was the first Black Mayor in the history of the city of Boston. I was the director of the Contract and Compliance for the city. One of my fondest memory of Jeep was how he helped so many even though many did not help him,” James M. Younger wrote online. “He was a true Christian more so than anyone I ever knew. I was truly honored to be a part of his staff. His memory, values, and principles will be with me/us forever,” he added.

After leaving his office as deputy mayor, he served on the Boston Redevelopment Authority board from 1981 until September 2013, and had been chairman from 1989 serving 24 years.

He is remembered not just as the first Black deputy mayor but as a man who served everyone.

“I don’t want to be a Black deputy mayor,” he told the Boston Globe in June 1978. “I want to be a deputy mayor who’s Black.”

Wilma Brown grew up with Jeep. She told The Final Call, “He never forgot where he came from. He always reached back to help people. He was always doing something to help. You rarely find people like him anymore. Everyone had so much respect for him.”

“He was good friends with my brother. They played basketball together and had a basketball team that traveled. He was really a good basketball player too. I never heard anyone say anything bad about him,” said Ms. Brown.

Clarence “Jeep” Jones and Mother Khadijah Farrakhan were childhood friends.

Mr. Jones is remembered by many in the fondest of ways.

“As I look back over my more than 50-year work history, there is no doubt that the pride I hold in working in the Deputy Mayor’s Office of ‘Jeep,’ is one my proudest. Both ‘Jeep’ and James Younger took a chance on me as a recent college graduate,” Barron “Barry” Cox shared online.

“The lessons I learned from them were instrumental in cementing the values of true intent and integrity in how I approached my career and life. I am forever thankful to ‘Jeep’ and have done my best to lend a hand to others as he has done for so many. We have lost a true leader and teacher and are blessed with the lessons he bestowed.”

Elizabeth Bowen-Boyd wrote online, “One of the finest people God put on this earth. Not enough time or space to mention all the good Jeep did for the kids in Roxbury. Because of Jeep, many of us turned out to be somebody.”

Many took to social media about the passing of Mr. Jones. “On the first day of #BlackHistoryMonth, we lost a bit of it,” Segun Idoqu wrote on Facebook. “Clarence ‘Jeep’ Jones - or ‘Uncle Jeep’ as I affectionately knew him - has passed away. He was a community organizer, the first Black Deputy Mayor of Boston, and longtime chair of the then-named Boston Redevelopment Authority. Above all, he was a loving husband, a father, a mentor, and a pillar of Twelfth Baptist Church. ‘Death,’ we are told, ‘is not extinguishing the light from the Christian; it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.’ I join my family in sending love and light to Wanda Hale Jones, the Jones family, the TBC membership, and all of #Roxbury,” added Segun Idoqu.

As significant as he was to the everyday people of Roxbury who knew him well, his work also stood out among activists and politicians.

“More than anyone I know, he was into the pursuit of excellence and there was nothing that could stop him,” Mel King, a longtime politician and one of Boston’s most prominent Black activists told the Boston Globe.

“He deserves the highest honors and accolades for his activities in the community and for being a role model for all of us,” he said.

Clarence Jones leaves behind his wife Wanda Hale Jones, three daughters, Meta Jones and Melissa Elow, both of Dorchester, and Nadine Jones of Mattapan; four sons, Kenneth Cunningham of East Boston, Michael Jones of Malden, Mark Jones of Dorchester, and Mark Cunningham of Tampa; a sister, Jacqueline Hoard of Boston; 15 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Sadiki Kambon, chair of Nubian Square Coalition said Jeep Jones’ legacy will forever be remembered. “He was very amenable to us,” said Mr. Kambon. “He wasn’t one of those ‘I’ll-talk-to-you when-I-can’ types. He seemed always open to all kinds of people. Down-to-earth, regular kind of guy. … He was a trailblazer and he was the type of person who could connect with any area of folks you’re talking about and they were receptive to him,” said Mr. Kambon.

“I had the utmost respect for Jeep Jones, and it’s a big loss for the community in terms of his passing but he’ll have a very positive legacy out here in terms of what he’s done,” he continued.