Two legendary leaders of education were celebrated on November 8 during a program at the Mary Livermore Library at UNC Pembroke.
Panel discussion – Bruce Barton, holding microphone, talks as the panel listens. From left are: Carley Wiggins, a South Carolina historian, Vanessa Barfield McIntyre, a former Leland Grove School student, and Randall Jones, son of former UNCP Chancellor English Jones.
The lives and careers of James K. Braboy, a South Carolina public school teacher, and Dr. English E. Jones, the longest-serving leader of UNCP (1962-1979), are interwoven in history, and their stories continue to inspire new admirers.
The event was part of UNCP’s continuing celebration of its 125th anniversary. An audience of more than 65 attended in the library’s Main Reading Room. It included members of the Jones and Braboy families and former students of Braboy.
Braboy, who was a 1928 graduate of Cherokee Indian Normal School of Robeson County (now UNCP), plucked Jones out of a Dillon County, S.C., cotton field. Braboy enrolled him in Leland Grove School, the two-room Indian school where Braboy did everything from teaching to driving the bus. Jones went on to lead the university as it blossomed into a regional institution and joined the newly formed UNC system.
Barbara Braveboy-Locklear, Braboy’s niece, moderated a panel composed of Carley Wiggins, Braboy’s biographer; Vanessa Barfield McIntyre, a Leland Grove student; Bruce Barton, a newspaper editor and local historian; Randall Jones, English Jones’ son; and Dr. Charles Jenkins, a longtime UNCP administrator.
Wiggins, who wrote two volumes of Dillon County history, said he was so moved by the Braboy story that he wrote nine lengthy newspaper columns on him.
“He was gone more than 20 years when I started writing about him,” Wiggins said. “His name kept coming back to me and something kept after me to research this man; it was a spiritual journey for me.”
Braboy Family – Descendants of James K. Braboy, a legendary South Carolina educator who was celebrated at a UNCP event this fall.
In Braboy, McIntyre found a personable and morally upright man, who encouraged her to attend school.
“He was like a father figure to us,” McIntyre said. “On holidays, we couldn’t wait to get back to school.”
Campus construction boomed thanks to Chancellor Jones' extraordinary ability to lobby the North Carolina General Assembly. Enrollment grew from 797 to 2,275.
Barton said Jones brought the university into the modern world “in spite of all the racial nonsense of the day.”
“What he did was amazing in turning this place from a small Indian school into a modern university,” Barton said. “If there is one person here who was the most influential in history, it’s him. I’d say he was the man most responsible for the success of this university.”
Randall Jones said his father was guided by three principles - god, family and work - in that order.
“My dad saw a world that was changing, and he knew that the university was going to have to change with it,” Jones said. “My first memories were at age five when I would accompany him to the university. He was very proud of this place.”
Jones Family – Descendants of former UNCP Chancellor English Jones attended the event that celebrated Jones and his mentor James K. Braboy.
Dr. Jenkins joined the university in 1971 and quickly realized he was working for a man with both “charisma” and “common sense.”
“He had great personal charm and was a wonderful public speaker,” said Dr. Jenkins, who continues to teach at UNCP after a serving as chief academic officer for many years. “He had the respect of the legislature and UNC President William Friday.”
Perhaps, Chancellor Jones greatest success was to foster diversity at the university during troubled times, Dr. Jenkins said.
“Pembroke led the way nationally in terms of desegregation,” he said. “Very few institutions acted as responsibly as this school. That is something we can all be proud of, and he made it happen.”
Randall Jones said Braboy was an inspiration for his father. “He saw something in my dad and my dad saw something in him, and they both promoted education,” Jones said.
It was an evening of stories and inspiration. In 2005, local physician Dr. Jayne P. Maynor endowed a scholarship in Braboy’s honor. She had never met him, she explained.
“This scholarship and its name are a great source of pride for me and the community,” Dr. Maynor said. “I had not heard of James K. Braboy until I read the stories by Mr. Wiggins in the Dillon Herald newspaper. It moved me to tears and inspired me.
“I have never heard of a man who gave so much to such a disadvantaged school,” Dr. Maynor said. “I didn’t want his name to die.”
Braboy passed away in 1976 and English Jones in 1981, but events like this will keep them alive, said Susan Whitt, interim dean of library services.
“Photos of Mr. Braboy and Dr. Jones are part of the Elmer Hunt Photo Collection here in the library,” Whitt said. “Approximately 15,000 photos from the collection are online and searchable, and we invite the public to tag the names of people we have not yet identified.”