Barbara Jones Interview

Barbara Jones, B.J., ran the second leg on the Tigerbelles winning 400-meter relay team in the 1960 Olympic Games at Rome.

Barbara is a native of Chicago. She became a Tigerbelle in a roundabout way.

Listen to the audio version here . . .

Barbara Jones

Barbara: I ran for the Catholic Youth Organization in Chicago and I ran against the Tigerbelles. I went to Marquette University and I belonged to Bishop Shields’ Catholic Youth Organization.

In 1956, I had made the Olympic team but I got hurt – I had a pulled a muscle and they sent me to California with the rest of the team to see if my leg would heal.

Well, it didn’t heal. That’s why I didn’t participate in the 1956 Olympics. The Olympics was held in Australia and October is their summer.

So, I had to make a choice of either going back to school, to Marquette University, or going to California to heal. When I came back school was in session and I was going back to register and found out that Bishop Shields had died.

As a result, my scholarship became defunct. The archbishop of Chicago took all of the scholarships from the boxers and track and field.

And he gave them to the swimmers and gymnastics.

I am from Chicago originally. I grew up on the South side of Chicago. I lived in the Ida B. Wells Projects – when I came back from the 1952 Olympics my parents had moved to 71st Street in a home.

But up until then I lived in the projects. That was the Ida B. Wells Projects in Chicago. And so when I came back home my mom called Mr. Robershaw, who was the sponsor and the coach –he wasn’t a coach but he was the one who contacted Bishop Shields and people for scholarships.

They didn’t have anything available because first of all it was during the middle of the semester – in October and November – and he didn’t know Bishop Shields was going to die –so we always relied on Bishop Shields, everybody did.

I got home on a Wednesday and she called Mr. Robershaw and said, Barbara’s home. Where is she going to go to school?

They didn’t have a place for me so she called Mr. Temple.

Dwight: How did she know about Mr. Temple?

Barbara: Because I always ran against the Tigerbelles. Everybody knew Mr. Temple just like he knew Bishop Shields.

Like he knew Mae Faggs and the PAL (Police Athletic League). It was clubs running against Tuskegee and Tennessee State.

Those were the only universities that gave scholarships out at that time. So, she called Mr. Temple and said, Barbara is available. Would you like her on your team?

He said, Put her on the train tomorrow.

Dwight: What was your mother’s name?

Barbara: My mom, Eva Jones. And my dad was Leon Jones. I had the kind of mother who never missed a track meet. My dad worked because my dad wanted my mom to stay home and take care of the children and the home.

He worked in the factory, a casing factory where the sausage and hot dog casings.

He was never late nor was he every absent. He got a medal and a watch for that.

So, that’s how I got to be a Tigerbelle.

Barbara was at Marquette in Milwaukee two years.

She ran the 100 and the relay. When the Tigerbelles got back home from the 1956 Olympics in Australia and their tour of parts of Europe afterward they had a new member for their team.

Dwight: Did you fit in immediately?

Barbara: No! Now you think about it. I ran against them and I beat them for years. And then I am going to be their teammate? So, no, you don’t fit in right away.

You have to earn your way.

Dwight: How did you earn your way and who was against you?

Barbara: Nobody was against me. Anything that you are good at you have to learn to earn your way to be a part of the team. I just couldn’t come and say I am a part of the team.

I mean I was a Tigerbelle but I had to earn my way, like anybody else.

You don’t know when you fit in but you have to go along with the rules and regulations and let them get to know you, and you get to know them and all of a sudden you are either a Tigerbelle or an outsider running on the team. That’s just anything you do.

Dwight: You had come from Chicago… I guess it was a different lifestyle living in Chicago and then coming to Nashville?

Barbara: Yeah, but don’t you remember when you were writing and you wrote in there (in A Will To Win), Here comes Barbara Jones with her gloves and her hat, and her purse going to church.

Well, that was me. I was always going to church and my whole lifestyle was different. I lived with my mother and father, and I got an allowance every two weeks.

I was very spoiled because when I was at CYO (the Catholic Youth Organization), I was the diva.

But when I came to Tennessee State there were all divas. So, it was a big difference. We were always competing because Mr. Temple let you know, first, second or third, that’s about it.

You had to always follow his orders, and do what you were suppose to do or you could be gone. No matter how good you were.

When I got there, I thought Mr. Temple was older. And then when I graduated and would go back to Tennessee State for different events I found out he was only nine years older than me.

Now, he was only two years older than Pat (Mansanto) and three years older that Mae Faggs. I think Pat was the first one on the team and if you look at the age she was only a year behind Mr. Temple and Mae Faggs was two years younger.

We thought he was 100 years old the way he trained us.

Mr. Temple was the type of person who didn’t stand for anything. You had to follow his rules. And we didn’t realize what he was doing.

I mean what kind of man could have divas, all those divas – those women—divas and be able to stay in control?

Think about it. If you were a man who had all divas of different ages, different personalities would you have been able to handle us, and we’re in college?

He did a fantastic job as a coach, as a father, as a friend and everything –I didn’t realize that track and field and being in college on scholarship and having to be on my own – because mom and dad were home – I didn’t realize that he was teaching us the walk of life.

What to expect after we graduated. He prepared us for life because everything I do I go a lot of his rules and regulations. That has made me the best mother – I think I am, I don’t know about my children – as a wife – I have been married 55 years to the same man that I met there at Tennessee State – to have two girls, five grandchildren and a five-month great grandchild.

So everything that I learned at Tennessee State in track and field – being on a team – everything I learned I am still applying.

That’s why, I think if you have noticed, most of the Tigerbelles, are in community service.  If you think about it, very few went on their own —because Mr. Temple used to say – you have to pass the baton – and that’s what we did.

We passed the baton – and to give you an example –Aug. 11, 12 and 13—my students, high school students at Michigan City, Indiana are having a reunion with my dancing students. I was a dance instructor and I got 15 scholarships for them to go to college.

Moved to Atlanta in 1986. Retired from the school system in DeKalb County at age 70.

Life has been beautiful and I can say that Mr. Temple had a lot to do with that.

Me being a Tigerbelle, I had to learn how to work with other divas.  I had to learn how to do with girls, who at first didn’t particularly care for me because I had been their competition for years.

And Mr. Temple was able to keep us in unity. As one team. Mrs. Temple and Mr. Temple treated us like they were our mother and father.