World War II hero Henry Will Jones from Lakeland will be inducted posthumously as a member of the 2013 class of the ABAC Athletics Hall of Fame at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in a Gressette Gymnasium ceremony on March 2.
Jones, a Marine Captain, received the Silver Star posthumously for his bravery against the Japanese forces at Peleliu in the Palau Islands in the south Pacific in World War II.
Tickets are now available at a cost of $30 per person for the 1 p.m. induction luncheon which is a part of the Celebrate ABAC Alumni Weekend activities.
Tickets for the event are available from the ABAC Office of College Advancement at (229) 391-4895. Tickets will be sold only in advance. No tickets will be available on the day of the event.
Other members of this year’s class include the 1999 national championship men’s tennis team, former ABAC baseball player Z.B. Hamilton, former ABAC tennis player Derrick Racine, and former ABAC women’s basketball coach Julie Conner.
A 1935 graduate of Lanier County High School, Jones attended Georgia Military College, ABAC and the University of Georgia (UGA).
At ABAC, he played the guard position for the basketball team on Coach Orion Mitchell’s 1937 state junior college champions. He also played on the 1937 ABAC baseball team.
Jones was a member of the 1936 football team, which was the last football team ABAC ever fielded after all the uniforms and equipment were destroyed in a fire after the season. He received the prestigious “B” for football and basketball.
The students at ABAC selected Jones as the “Most Dignified Boy” in the 1937 yearbook. He was also a member of the Baldwin Future Farmers Chapter and the Glee Club.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree from UGA, Jones became the first vocational agriculture teacher at Dexter High School in 1940. According to an article by Scott Thompson in the “Courier Herald” of Dublin, Jones also coached in a new six-man football league formed by Laurens County schools.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Jones joined the Marine Corps. According to Thompson’s article, Jones saw action in the Pacific where he was at Guadalcanal and Bougainville.
Thompson said Jones earned leave time in 1944 and returned to Lakeland on Feb. 17. He received his commission as a Captain in the Marine Corps and was stationed near San Diego, Calif.
In his story, Thompson said Jones was given the opportunity to stay in the country and participate in the Marine training program. Since he wasn’t married and didn’t have any children, he told his commanding officer that a father should be the one who stayed at home to train the new Marines. Jones returned to the Pacific and was reported killed in action on Oct. 18.
In the Silver Star citation, Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal said, “Observing a tank misdirecting its fire, he unhesitatingly braved the enemy’s intense barrage to climb into the tank and attempt to direct its fire by heading it forward of the lines to a position for close-range fire against the principal emplacement. While engaged in his perilous task, Captain Jones was mortally wounded when the vehicle struck an explosive charge planted in the ground. He gallantly gave his life for his country.”
In 1997, Rep. Jay Shaw and Rep. Hanson Carter were successful in getting legislation passed to have a bridge over the Alapaha River west of Lakeland named in honor of Jones. In a “Valdosta Daily Times” article in 1997, Joe Dunlop wrote that in one of his last letters home, Jones said, “If I ever get out of this mess over here, I want to come home and take my shoes off and soak my feet in the Alapaha River.”
Jones’ nephew, Henry Will Jones, II, from Leesburg gathered the information for the Jones’ nomination to the Hall of Fame. He is an ABAC alumnus, and his daughter, Jessie, is now attending ABAC.