Berea College Statement on the Death of Appalachian Studies Pioneer Loyal Jones
Berea College mourns the loss of our beloved Loyal Jones, a prolific writer and one of the foremost experts on Appalachian life and culture. Jones, a 1954 graduate of Berea College, died at his North Carolina home on Saturday, October 7. He was 95.
“Loyal has been a life-engendering presence in Appalachia and Appalachian Studies from the time he started working with the Council of Southern Mountains in 1958 all the way through his passing last Saturday,” said Chris Green, director of the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center at Berea College. “Loyal loved stories and people. His life was dedicated to listening and making room for everyone to feel and be heard.”
After graduating from Berea College, Jones earned a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina. He returned to Berea in 1958 to become the associate executive director and then executive director of the Council of the Southern Mountains, Inc., a pivotal organization during the War on Poverty. Before returning to Berea, he taught in the U.S. Army and the Jefferson County (Kentucky) schools. He wrote eight books and coauthored five others with Billy Edd Wheeler, a 1955 Berea graduate, award-winning songwriter, recording artist, poet and author. Jones served as founder and director of the College’s Appalachian Center, the first of its kind in the nation, from 1970 to 1993. In 2008, the center was renamed in his honor as the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center. His dedication to Appalachia led him to actively engage with organizations centered around education, welfare and reform in Appalachian communities. He earned numerous awards and honors for his tireless commitment to this often-overlooked region and its people.