CHARLOTTE, N.C. — People are remembering the legacy of a local civil rights leader who died on Friday at the age of 82.

  • J. Charles Jones, a local civil rights icon, passed away Friday. He was 82.
  • Jones staged multiple lunch counter sit-ins in downtown Charlotte prior to desegregation and was even jailed for his support of the Rock Hill Nine
  • Funeral arrangements for Jones are pending

J. Charles Jones, who was a student at Johnson C. Smith University in 1960, led many sit-in protests at lunch counters in downtown Charlotte until the city center began to desegregate.

“It took six months until he and his dad, the Presbyterian minister, were able to go down, order a cup of coffee, a hot dog and be treated like human beings,” Historian Tom Hanchett said.

In 1960, he voluntarily went to jail in South Carolina in support of the Rock Hill Nine, a group of African-American men who were arrested after staging a sit-in at a segregated lunch counter.

According to Hanchett, Jones was one of the co-founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and a member of the Freedom Riders.

“Charles Jones was ageless. He started making history when he was in his 20s. He was still doing it in his 70s into his 80s,” Hanchett said.

Jones became an attorney and lived in Biddleville, which is Charlotte’s oldest surviving Black neighborhood.

“Charles Jones talked about a beloved community, a city in which we all talked to each other, respect each other. Because of Charles Jones we are much closer to that beloved community than we would’ve been without his courage,” Hanchett said.

Former Charlotte city councilman Justin Harlow, who lives in Jones’ neighborhood, said Jones encouraged him to run for office.

“He was one of the first ones to give me a nudge and a push. He’s very responsible for my involvement and my advocacy today and I’ll certainly continue to remember him in whatever I continue to do in the future,” Harlow said.

In addition, Harlow said Jones was behind combining the Biddleville Neighborhood Association and the Smallwood Community Organization.

“These were separate entities decades ago: one Black, one White. Through integration and these neighborhoods seeing the changes they’re seeing, he is literally the founder and responsible person for combining those organizations and bringing that unity together,” Harlow said.

Charlotte City Council issued a proclamation recognizing Dec. 9, 2019 as Joseph Charles Jones Day. Jones' wife accepted the proclamation on his behalf at a council meeting on the same date.

“He was a phenomenal human being, a vibrant personality. His impact is certainly larger than just this neighborhood, no question. He’s had an impact in the Carolinas as it relates to integration, an impact on the Carolinas as it relates to equal rights and fighting against segregation,” Harlow said.

Funeral arrangements for Jones are pending.

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