Photo by O’Neil Arnold

Inducted 2022

Born: January 5, 1928, Marble, North Carolina
Died: October 7, 2023, Black Mountain, North Carolina

Loyal Jones is a prolific writer and scholar of Appalachian culture, the author or co-author of 13 books and dozens of articles. He founded a center for Appalachian studies at Berea College.

Jones was one of eight children born to a farming family in Western North Carolina. When he was 12, his family moved to Brasstown, where the John C. Campbell Folk School had been created in 1925. After high school, Jones served briefly in the U.S. Navy at the end of World War II and then farmed and trained show horses for several years.

A woman associated with the folk school suggested he enroll in Berea College. Both institutions had good libraries, fueling Jones’ interest in reading, writing and learning more about his native region. He earned a B.A. in English from Berea and an M.A. in English from the University of North Carolina.

Before returning to Berea College to teach, Jones taught in the U.S. Army and Jefferson County Public Schools. He was associate executive director and later executive director of the Council of the Southern Mountains. Jones led Berea College’s Appalachian Center from 1970 until 1993. In 2008, college trustees voted to name the center for him.

“I tried to write about what I thought the real values of the Appalachian people were rather than the negative things, like moonshining and feuds,” Jones said in an interview. His favorite, and most popular, book is Appalachian Values, which was published in 1995 with photographs by Warren Brunner.

“Loyal Jones, in many ways, deserves to be called the father of modern Appalachian studies,” said Ron Eller, a retired University of Kentucky history professor, author and leading historian of Appalachia.

“Loyal represented a whole generation of mountain young people who discovered their Appalachian identity in the 1960s and 1970s and dedicated themselves to improving the region and celebrating mountain culture,” Eller said. “In the manner of traditional mountain storytellers, Loyal was able to relate the dignity of mountain life and culture throughout his writings, lectures and many media appearances. As a scholar, he is widely respected today as a leading authority on Appalachian culture, humor, and music.”

Bill Turner, an scholar and leading authority on Black history and culture in Appalachia, said Jones has been a longtime mentor and friend.

“Loyal Jones picked me up more than four decades ago when I most needed advice, counsel, direction and instructions on how to frame my perspective, research, and writing on Appalachia, specifically Black people in the region,” Turner said. “Loyal Jones is a brilliant, compassionate, funny and humble gentleman.”

From 1973 until 1993, Jones led Berea’s annual Celebration of Traditional Music. He has been involved with Hindman Settlement School, including as a director and chairman, since 1978.

Jones and his wife, the former Nancy Swan, who died in 2016, were the parents of three children: Susan, Carol and Scott. Jones lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Selected Bibliography 

Appalachia: A Self-Portrait (1979)
Radio’s ‘Kentucky Mountain Boy’ Bradley Kincaid (1980)
Minstrel of the Appalachians: The Story of Bascom Lamar Lunsford (1984)
Reshaping the Image of Appalachia (1986)
Appalachian Values (with photographer Warren Brunner, 1995)
Faith and Meaning in the Southern Uplands (1999)
Country Music Humorists and Comedians (2008)
My Curious and Jocular Heroes: Tales and Tale-Spinners from Appalachia (2017)

Co-Authored with Billy Ed Wheeler:
Laughter in Appalachia: A Festival of Southern Mountain Humor (1987)
Curing the Cross-Eyed Mule: Appalachian Mountain Humor (1989)
The Preacher Joke Book (1989)
Hometown Humor (1991)
More Laughter in Appalachia: A Festival of Southern Mountain Humor (1995)

Jones also edited the humor section and numerous other entries in the Encyclopedia of Appalachia, edited by Ruby Abramson and Jean Haskell, 2006.

Major Awards:

Thomas Wolfe Award (WNC Historical Society)
Mountain Spirit Award (Christian Appalachian Project)
Laurel Leaves Award (Appalachian Consortium)
President’s Medallion (Berea College)
Appalachian Educator Award (Carson-Newman College)
Appalachian Treasure Award (Morehead State University)
Cratis D. Williams Appalachian Service Award (Appalachian Studies Association)
Award of Special Merit (Berea College Alumni Association)
Service to Appalachia and Berea College Award (Berea College Appalachian Fund)
Outstanding Contributor to Appalachian Literature and Culture Award (Appalachian Writers Association)
Denny Plattner Award for poetry (Appalachian Heritage)
Special W.D. Weatherford Award (Berea College)
Jim Wayne Miller Award (Hazard Community College)
Culture and Arts Award (East Kentucky Leadership Foundation)
W.D. Weatherford Award for Faith & Meaning in the Southern Uplands (Berea College)
Willie Parker Peace History Book Award (North Carolina Society of Historians)
Awarded an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters (Union College)

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