WALTER “WILEY” JONES - continued from Facebook
After the Civil War and now free, "Wiley" returned to Monticello, Arkansas to work first as a mule driver and then as the business manager of the Yell plantation. In 1868, he began to work as a barber then began dealing tobacco, cigars, and other goods. By August 1886, Jones had saved enough money to secure the charter for the first streetcar line in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He had one and one-fourth mile completed and the first car running by October 19, 1886. He also purchased the fair grounds located on a 55-acre park he owned near main street which was called Wiley Jones Park. He also owned a stable of horses including one thoroughbred pace, "Billy H", which broke a track record at a race in Windsor, Canada.
Jones founded the Southern Mercantile Company, making his longtime friend Fred Havis president and his brother, James, manager. Jones was an active Republican and was a delegate to the 1880 Republican National Convention in Chicago and opened a manual training school, the Colored Industrial Institute of Pine Bluff in about 1888. He played an important role in promoting blacks to office in Pine Bluff and in Jefferson County. He was an organizer of the Arkansas Colored Men's Association. He was an active Mason and played an important role in the building of a Masonic Temple in Pine Bluff.
He did not learn to read and write until he was an adult. He was a Christian but not a part of any denomination or church. He did not marry. He died in Pine Bluff on December 7, 1904 of Bright's disease. The funeral was held at the new black Masonic Temple. He is interred at cemetery which he had founded.
Copyright Black History Mini Docs Inc. 2023 All Rights Reserved.