Educator, school founder, and administrator Laurence Clifton Jones (1884–1975) uplifted the African-American community by establishing a school in the deep woods of Mississippi’s Black Belt called Piney Woods Country Life School. He made it possible for thousands of black youth to receive elementary and high school educations. The school that he founded on faith in 1910 led Jones to be known affectionately as “The Little Professor of Piney Woods.” Born in St. Joseph, Missouri, Jones worked his way through college and graduated from Iowa State University. He became fascinated with the philosophy and success of educator Booker T. Washington. Later he was offered a position at Tuskegee Institute (later University), which Washington founded, but instead decided to build a school in Piney Woods, where he thought his service was needed more. To help sustain the struggling school, Jones organized several small groups of singers known as the Cotton Blossom Singers, who went out on singing tours to raise money. They were called “the best-known ambassadors or musical messengers” for Piney Woods. In the later 1930s Jones also organized the International Sweethearts of Rhythm; they appeared at the Apollo Theater in New York City and at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Jones retired in the 1974–1975 school year and died in Jackson, Mississippi.
Inspired by the work of Booker T. Washington, philanthropist Julius Rosenwald built thousands of schools and other educational-support buildings in sixteen states.