News & Events

Privileged background gave woman power to change the system

February 22nd, 2012


by Sharon Sheridan, an ENS correspondent

“I like making trouble,” says Happy Jones, who recounts her past with passion and laughter. “It’s just fun.”

Now almost 75, Jones — whose given name is Dorothy — caused her share of “trouble” during the civil rights movement in Memphis, Tennessee, and she’s not done yet.

“I’ve always been interested in politics,” said Jones, who grew up in a prominent Memphis family. “When I turned 21, the first thing I did, I went downtown to register to vote. It was like my birthday present to myself.”

She joined the Republican Party.

“That was when it was the party of Lincoln, my dear, and it was mostly made up in the South of black folks,” she said. “The deal was that blacks and whites would vote for Republican national candidates, but blacks locally had to vote for the Democratic local people.”

Under the Memphis political machine of Edward Hull “Boss” Crump, she said, “they used to take prisoners, put them on a bus and take them around to the polls and vote all the dead people. This basically only happened in black precincts. They would vote for who they were told to vote for.”
“There was a group of white Republicans who wanted to break that machine up,” said Jones. “Basically, we established a two-party system.”

Her involvement in the civil rights movement began after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot at the Lorraine Motel in 1968 while visiting Memphis to support striking African-American sanitation workers there. (click for more)

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