By Frank Chamberlain
Miss May Jones was one of the most active members of the Tarleton and Stephenville communities for a large part of the twentieth century. She was a lifelong resident of Erath County who made worked tirelessly for the betterment of area schools and her community. Jones spent 29 years at Tarleton, where she served as professor and head of the Math Department. In addition, she sponsored numerous campus activities and served as a friend to countless students.
May Jones was born in the small southwestern Erath community of Alexander in 1891. She attended elementary school at Palmer, a nearby rural schoolhouse. The Jones family moved to Stephenville when May was in the fifth grade. She finished out her primary and secondary schooling at Stephenville Public School.
Jones attended the John Tarleton College in 1906 and 1907. She was one of the 52 students who received the scholarships designated by John Tarleton’s original will. After leaving college, Jones spent nine years teaching in various rural schools in Hamilton County. This included tenure as principal at Hico School. In 1920, Jones returned to Stephenville to teach high school mathematics, coach the girls’ basketball team, and serve as dean of girls. She was promoted to principal in 1927. That same year, she earned her bachelor’s degree from North Texas State. She earned her master’s degree two years later from the University of Texas.
After two years at Stephenville High School, Jones was hired as a mathematics professor at Tarleton. She would serve in this capacity for 29 years, which included being the department head from 1953 until 1956. However, teaching math represented only one of her numerous contributions to the college.
Jones was very active in several campus organizations. She sponsored the O.W.L.S. Club, the first social club established on campus. This women’s group was created in 1924 and lasted until the early 1980s. (At that time, national sororities/fraternities had begun arriving on campus that damaged the enrollments of the earlier local clubs.) Jones was also a member and two-term president of the Campus Club, in which she served as chairman of the scholarship, education, and the war service committees. Jones’s contributions to Tarleton are still being felt due to a scholarship that she created in 1953. The May Jones Scholarship provides $250 for a girl who plans to teach mathematics.
Jones also played key roles in the successes of numerous Parents Days, Homecomings, and other festivities. She chaired these celebration committees for most of her career at Tarleton. In addition, Jones wrote or directed numerous pageants including the Texas Centennial, Pan-American, V-for-Victory, All Hail America, and the Tarleton Historical Pageant.
Jones was also a civic leader, devoting much of her time to the Stephenville community. She became a charter member of the Stephenville branch of the American Association of University Women (A.A.U.W.) in 1933. She occupied various positions within the state and local organizations, including tenures as president at both levels. Her activities within this club led her to visit 56 branches within the state. In the process, she logged over 30,000 miles in travels.
Jones was also very active in the Delta Kappa Gamma organization for women teachers. She acted as president of the local chapter and served on several state committees. As a member of this club, she attended conventions throughout the United States. In 1958, Jones was awarded with a state achievement award for service in recognition of her numerous contributions to the sorority.
The First Baptist Church in Stephenville was another of Jones’ primary interests. She held many responsibilities within the church such as teaching Sunday school and singing in the choir. In addition, Jones directed the teacher-training program, was president of the choir, and sat on a number of administrative committees. Her church-related activities reached to Tarleton where she sponsored the Baptist Student Union for several years.
May Jones retired from the university in 1958 leaving behind a legacy of dedicated and selfless service. She continued to be active in civic activities until her death in 1980. In death, she remained devoted to her community, requesting that donations made in her memory be given to her scholarship fund, the Dick Smith Library, or the Baptist church.
“Miss May Jones Gives Tarleton Scholarship”, The J-TAC, February 17, 1953.
“Retiring Profs Total 66 Years as Teachers”, Stephenville Daily Empire, July 20, 1958.
“They Bow to a Gracious Lady”, The Texas A&M System News, December 1955.
“Veteran Erath Educator Dies”, Stephenville Empire Tribune, October 12, 1980.