Coach from Smithfield honored for contributions to community

Published 3:00 pm Saturday, October 27, 2012

Melvin Jones was inducted into the Hampton Roads African-American Sports Hall of Fame last night in Norfolk in recognition of his 40 years of coaching, 35 years of teaching, and constant dedication in equipping young people to go through life successfully.

Smithfield native Melvin Jones was recognized on Saturday for his 35 years of teaching and 40 years of coaching by being inducted into the Hampton Roads African-American Sports Hall of Fame as a Community Contributor.

“Oh, I’m truly excited,” he said on Friday. “I’ve done some things in my life, so I’ve been blessed. Promotions come from God, so I know that.”

The press release for the event described Jones as being “known in the Hampton Roads region, especially on the Peninsula and Williamsburg-James City areas, as the coach who ‘coaches beyond the sport.’ He has made a positive impact on the lives of generations of his players and students by caring about them and spreading his old school philosophy and down home values.”

Melvin Jones teaches students in his Advanced Industrial Arts class at Lafayette High School in Williamsburg, which he did from 1973-2008. This picture was taken during the mid-1980s.

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As a student, Jones was an accomplished athlete, lettering 11 times in high school at  Isle of Wight Training School for baseball, track and field and football. Then, at Norfolk State University, he was awarded eight letters and numerous other accolades for football and track.

From 1973-2008, he taught Advanced Industrial Arts at Lafayette High School in Williamsburg. He also coached football there for 17 years before moving on to serve as a running backs coach at Virginia Union University. He later coached at Hampton University, serving a total of seven years at the college level.

Work that really embodied what Jones was able to do in the life of generations of young people came through his leadership in the Williamsburg-James City County Community Action Agency’s Green Team Summer Youth Employment Program.

“I used to just love that program,” he said.

For six weeks every summer, youth from area high schools came to work for Jones, repairing homes. But Jones would teach them far more than just how to build a porch.

“You had to be on time. I came through the door, my hat came off, and we had the chance to teach everything,” he explained.

He taught the kids discipline, humility and generosity, to help those less fortunate.

“In Williamsburg, (the program) would identify a home where people were on a fixed income, elderly people, and they just didn’t have any money,” he said. “So, we would fix up their home free, everything from A to Z.”

Jones holds a master’s degree in education, a bachelor’s degree in industrial arts and associate degrees in building construction and drafting and small mechanics.

But it was the connection Jones was able to form with students ,and later those same students’ children, that has helped earn him a legacy.

He told the story of a student whose parents had him out of wedlock. The student felt he was a mistake, because he was an illegitimate child. Jones stopped him short and explained that if God did not want him to be here, he would not be here.

“’Now maybe your mom and dad didn’t do it legit, but you are legit,’” he said. “’And there’s something that God wants you to do.’ And I said, ‘Guess what God did?’ I said, ‘He put me here to make sure whatever you want to do, I’d be able to help you do it.’ I said, ‘I’m part of your go-through crew.’”

Jones continues to help kids go through life as the director of indoor and outdoor track and field at Lafayette High School.

“This thing is a ministry to me,” he said. “I get excited about doing it.”