Not only was Thursday a day of mourning in light of the passing of J.D. Salinger, but the Atlanta art scene felt an extra sting when news came down of the loss of one of its own: long-standing art collector Paul R. Jones. He passed on Tuesday in Atlanta at the age of 81.
Jones was born in Bessemer, Alabama, where he later attended the predominantly black Alabama State University in Montgomery. After completing his education at Howard University in Washington, D.C. (and being rejected from the University of Alabama Law School on racial grounds), Jones became very active in the Civil Rights movement, working both in small Southern communities and in various government positions. He later went on to become deputy director of the Peace Corps in Thailand. His energy for social justice and education would remain a dominating force throughout his life.
Jones’ most significant and unique educational contribution came from his extensive art collection. Although he was never a significantly wealthy individual, Paul Jones began collecting African-American art in the 1960s, stating a desire to compensate for the lack of African-American artists’ representation in galleries. By 1993, his collection of artwork of all media had grown far into the hundreds. That year, part of his collection was exhibited at the University of Delaware, which was later the recipient of a gift of several hundred works from Jones’ collection.
“As my collection ‘caught fire’ … broader, deeper involvement emerged … respect for and relating to pieces grew stronger … respect for the collection’s force increased,” explains the collector in a quote on the University of Delaware website.
Although born in Alabama, Jones made Atlanta his second home and was actively involved in supporting the city’s African-American artists, which—according to the collector’s own goals—is a way of furthering all American art.
Jones is survived by his son, P.R. Jones of California. A memorial service is to be held at Cascade United Methodist Church in Atlanta; no date has currently been set.