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The Raleigh Hall of Fame induction ceremony on October 3, 2016 will honor Calvin Jones for shaping the history and character of the Capital City through contributions in the fields of medicine, publishing, politics, education, and military leadership.
The induction serves as official acknowledgment that Jones, a trailblazer whose life made a lasting impact on the city of Raleigh and the state beyond, belongs in the pantheon of iconic North Carolinians.
Calvin Jones was born on April 2, 1775 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and by age 17 he had earned his medical license. In 1795 he moved to Smithfield and in six years had gained recognition as the first physician in North Carolina to understand and promote the public health benefits of the groundbreaking smallpox vaccine recently developed in Europe.
Jones relocated to Raleigh in 1803 and soon was elected that city’s mayor. By 1807 he was representing North Carolina in the House of Commons and had begun editing and publishing an early city newspaper, the Raleigh Star. Jones next made history during the War of 1812 by accepting a commission to command the Seventh North Carolina Division of Militia.
In this role, he ordered troops to guard the coast at Okracoke and Portsmouth, a formidable show of force that reportedly prevented the British fleet of 150 warships and other vessels from invading North Carolina, moving inland, and making ours a battleground state.
Jones made many other contributions while a resident of Raleigh. He was a leader of the city’s first Freemason Lodge, sat on the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees for 30 years, studied ailments of the eye and pioneered methods in cataract surgery, and cultivated an interest in education which extended to the founding and administration of a number of local schools in Raleigh and northern Wake County.
In 1821, Jones purchased a 615 acre farm in “the Forest of Wake,” establishing the town’s first post office and formally adopting “Wake Forest” as the location’s name and address.
Jones and his family lived in Wake Forest for a decade, but by 1832 he was sufficiently concerned about additional land holdings in Tennessee to make a permanent move west.
Approached by the Baptist State Convention, Jones reportedly felt a deep connection. Although a lifelong Episcopalian, he enthusiastically supported the plans to build a school for training young men as Baptist ministers, and records suggest he lowered the asking price for his property and added approximately one hundred acres west of Richland Creek as a gift to the institute. For these reasons, Wake Forest College counted Jones among its founders, and his portrait hung in the first administration building until that structure was destroyed by fire on May 5, 1933.
Wake Forest Historical Museum Executive Director Ed Morris submitted the documents nominating Calvin Jones for the 2016 Raleigh Hall of Fame. Representatives from Wake Forest University, the Board of the Wake Forest College Birthplace Society, and descendants of the Jones family will attend the induction ceremony.