The BHS Gentle Giant
by Cate Murway
James William [Jim] Jones, Jr, BHS ’59 has a “den of achieves” in his home.
He is an unpretentious, modest man; a mixture of toughness and tenderness with ethical strength and ability; by his nature, very giving and selfless. His converted garage den walls are a shrine to the accomplished athletes he feels privileged to have coached.
According to the Courier Times, “Jones gives Bristol program new life” article written by William Kenny in November 2003, “Bristol High School cross country was about as close to death as a program can get but in 1998, former borough police officer, [Corporal] Jim Jones resurrected it”. He is still initiating action, tenacious and purposeful, showing that he knows quite well how to get things going and make things happen! FAST!
He was born in Bristol Borough on Pond Street, the only child of his late parents, Virginia born James William, Sr. and Justine M. [Gibson], BHS Class of ’39. Many of his family members were BHS grads, including his Aunt Martha Ford ’36, his Uncles Tom and Joe Gibson who also graduated in the mid-1930’s and his sons, consummate football, basketball and track athletes as well, Tyrone ’82 [inducted into 1992 BHS Hall of Fame] and Christopher ’87.
His elementary education began in the Wood Street School his mom had attended, currently the Senior Citizens Building across from the Police Station. His grandparents, Preachers Thomas and Cynthia Gibson, originally from Waycross, GA were Borough residents.
As a football receiver, basketball, baseball and track student-athlete, Jim ran on the original 1/5mile cinder track for Coach Anthony “Chick” D’Angelo. As a freshman, he represented BHS in the Lower Bucks County League at the District One Track meet held at Upper Darby High School. Bensalem was not entering the meet and Council Rock didn’t even have a track team in mid- May 1956. In 1957 at the Meet of Champions, he broke the LBC mile record that had stood for 33 years. On the track in 1958, he pulled off a difficult double and won a state title in the 880yd run, outdistancing the nearest competitor in a new record time of 1:59.9 and an astonishing second finish in the mile [4:38.0]. Senior year, he captured the District 1 Championships in both events and returned to win both events in the State finals. He was also a leg of the 1959 mile relay team including Joe Pascale, Dick Fenton and Wilmer “Bubba” Johnson that won the State crown. Jim, dubbed “Hound Dog” was among the first six inducted into the BHS Sports Hall of Fame on January 14, 1988 for his accomplishments in all three sports of football, basketball and track.
The late 1950’s were golden years for LBC track & field and Jim was one of the leading contenders. He was one of the most outstanding track performers in the history of BHS.
After graduation, he enlisted in the Air Force until 1963, was stationed in Lockbourne Air Force Base, Columbus, OH, and continued running track [dropped his times to 1:52 in the ½ and 4:20 in the mile] and playing softball and basketball. He had family in Staten Island, N.Y. and resided there for some time, starting his own family of 8 children. His daughter, Vanessa inherited his genes and earned the title of N.Y. State champ!
He returned to live on Pond Street in Bristol in 1968, first working at the U.S. Steel Works in Fairless Hills and then decided to try something new for Taylor-Davis as a draftsman, creating placement plans for reinforcing rods in concrete foundations. The company was relocating so Jimmy took the opportunity to test for the Bristol Borough Police Force. He heard the announcement on WBCB that the Bristol Borough Council had hired him while he was working at his drafting table. He started his new career as a police officer, “giving back to the many people who helped him in his childhood” in 1973, after completing the Municipal Police Training course as presented by the Pennsylvania State Police Training Academy in Collegeville. His first partner in the force was District Justice Frank W. Peranteau, Sr. He loved his tenure as Officer Jones and retired from this profession as a Corporal in August 1996.
He does not miss the shift work!
BHS welcomed him back in March 1997, first as the Head Track & Field Coach and then since he is a fully trained and certified law enforcement officer, the position of Security and Truant Officer was offered to him, to assist the school administration with security and truancy concerns as well as extracurricular activities.
The 1997 and 1998 “Track & Field Coach of the Year”, the 2003 “B.A.L. Cross Country Coach of the Year” and the 2006 “Coach of the Year” sincerely feels rewarded watching his athletes improve and seeing their expressions when they realize they have done something they never thought they could do.
Spending time with his family, including his 17 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren and Vendora [Van] Boyd (since 1992) is most imortant to him. In his “free” time, Jim enjoys listening to the Stylistics’ music, one of the best-known Philadelphia soul groups of the 1970’s. The group's biggest U.S. hit is his favorite song- "You Make Me Feel Brand New”. He is such a generous person with a sensitive and compassionate nature, giving of his knowledge and experience, an icon of competency and dependability.
Accolades resound from people of many walks [runs] of life:
Distance and 4x800 relay team runner Samuel Michael Scalzo, BHS ’08 states, “Mr. Jones is one of the most influential people in my life and I appreciate his coaching style.”
“How can I repay
You for having faith in me..”
Extraordinary sprinter, Steven Philip Johnson, BHS ‘06/ St. Francis University, Loretto, PA Occupational Therapy major,
“ Mr. Jones was like a second father to me. He kept me in line and “on track”. He’s a well- balanced coach. I was prepared for the college workouts. Any athlete is lucky to have him as a coach.”
Came when I needed a friend
Believed in me through thick and thin
This song is for you
Filled with gratitude and love
God bless you”
Just returning from the annual BHS Red [the winners] and Grey night, ISS Facilitator Denise Karen Smith, BHS ’72, confirmed, “He has a presence in the school and the students respect him. He makes sure everyone is where and how he or she should be. He influences the children and I admire him.”
“You're one on whom I can depend
To walk a path that sometimes bends”
Aspiring record holder sprinter Mary Kathleen Barbagallo, BHS ’09 shared, ”Even if you don’t win your race, Mr. Jones lets you know that he knows you’ve done your best. At the end of the season you know you’ve come as far as you have because of him!”
“You built me up and made me sure
You gave my pride back to me
Jim has enjoyed an illustrious career both as an athlete and as BHS's coach and he “never forgets where he came from”. He “loves Bristol and likes the people best and came back to contribute. People rallied around when he was growing up…He had many mothers!”
The fundamentally conservative Jimmy Jones keeps many people on the “right track”!
“For God blessed me with you”
[lyrics “You make me feel brand new” by the Stylistics]
American Heritage Dictionary
1.Moral or ethical strength. 2.A description of a person's attributes, traits, or abilities.