You may have heard of the Minnie Jones Center, or heard the name Minnie Jones in passing as a resident of Buncombe County the last 50 years.
So let’s shine of light on this community innovator and tireless volunteer who worked to make Asheville a better place to live for all.
Jones began her activist life back in the 1960s when she worked with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Dexter Ave Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. For Jones, it all started because of racism and prejudice. Hearing Dr. King preach about the injustices of segregation inspired her to work towards making positive steps toward equality. A Spartanburg native, Jones moved to Asheville in the 1960s to continue her calling, bringing King’s influence to our area. She accomplished many feats in her 81 years: she co-founded the health care nonprofit that became known as Western North Carolina Community Health Services, now the Minnie Jones Center, which takes action to reduce unnecessary and unjust disparities in health care access, protecting vulnerable populations, embracing diversity, striving for efficiency, and ensuring the underprivileged benefit from health care opportunities.
She also helped to launch a clinic to care for AIDS patients at a time when many local practices would not accept them. She helped found Pisgah Legal Services, a nonprofit law firm that provides free legal aid to low-income people. She established and led the Minnie Jones After-School Program for many years. She also integrated the Asheville Housing Authority projects, becoming the first African-American to live in the previously all-white Pisgah View Apartments.
Jones worked endlessly and tirelessly for all citizens in Buncombe County to have a better life. A fierce advocate for the common person and underprivileged, her legacy continues well beyond her death, with all the programs she helped create providing many opportunities for a better, healthier life in Buncombe County.
For more information about Minnie Jones or to discover more hidden figures in Buncombe County’s history, you can visit the North Carolina Room at Pack Memorial Library. Just visit buncombecounty.org/library.
Prepared by Buncombe County.