ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – In honor of Black History month, there's no school more fitting to profile than the first public high school for African Americans in Orange County. A school with generations of alumni, a rich history, and a place that helped pave the way for so many people -- Jones High School.
Originally named the Colored School in 1882, the school was later renamed Johnson Academy in 1895 in honor of the school's principal Lymus Johnson. It later became Jones High School. That date was considered the school's founding.
Jones High celebrated its 125th anniversary earlier this month.
Hundreds of people came out on February 8th to celebrate the annual “Tiger Pride Day.” It was a community celebration as alumni from classes as far back as the 1960s repped the school’s colors (Orange and Green).
They had the chance to fellowship and reflect on their days at Jones High and reminisce on the legacy the school has left behind.
Jones High has a number of distinguished graduates who are now getting results and making a huge impact in Orange County and in their perspective communities. Among the prominent alumni are two Orlando sitting city commissioners Regina Hill and newly-elected commissioner Bakari Burns. The list also includes Judge Belvin Perry, nationally recognized physicist Sylvester Gates, actor Wesley Snipes, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and many more.
“I am a proud graduate of Jones High School and I celebrate its 125-year anniversary with the entire community," said Mayor Demings.
Demings is a 1977 graduate of Jones High. He was Orlando's first black police chief and also Orange County's first black mayor and sheriff. He credits his experience and education at Jones High to a lot of his successes today.
“The Jones alumnus have contributed to making the world a better place through science, medicine, business, politics, education, arts, sports, law, humanities and many other endeavors. May our lives bring honor and esteem to ole Jones High forevermore,” said Demings.
In 1931, Jones High School had its first graduation of students completing the twelfth grade.
In 1995, Jones High School celebrated 100 years as one of Orlando`s oldest high schools which for a half-century was the city’s only high school for African American students.
Many alumni say the history and legacy of Jones High will live on for even more decades to come.