Baton Rouge, LA — Johnnie Jones, an 83-year old African-American grandfather, has recently received his doctorate degree in human ecology at the Louisiana State University, making him the oldest Black person to ever receive an LSU degree. Ever unstoppable, he also plans to start law school next fall.
Decades ago, Jones had to drop out of school when he was in sixth grade to support his family after World War II. He wasn’t able to continue his studies when he joined the Marine Corps when he was 18 years old.
But he realized the importance of higher education when he noticed that those who had high school diplomas and college degrees often had better employment opportunities. He attended night school to earn his diploma and, afterward, took junior college classes before being deployed as a sergeant to two combat tours during the Vietnam War. Later on, he took advantage of correspondence courses offered by Louisiana State University while in Vietnam.
He retired from the military in 1973 and he also got his bachelor’s degree in sociology at the University of Hawaii by then. After that, he pursued his master’s degree at LSU while working at a restaurant and later as a warden at the Louisiana Department of Corrections to support his family.
Last Friday, Jones became the eldest student to receive a graduate degree during the fall commencement at LSU and also the oldest Black person to receive a degree in the history of LSU.
Despite his age and his rather many educational achievements already, he doesn’t want to stop just yet. He plans to begin law school next fall.
“Age is an artificial constraint. There’s nothing magical about 65, 75, 95, 105. Your behavior, your activities should be guided by your physical fitness and your mental fitness,” he told The Advocate. “We’ve been so socialized to believe that once you hit a certain age, I’ve done my thing, so I’m going to sit back and enjoy life. OK, if that’s your thing, that’s your thing. But to me, age doesn’t mean that much. It’s whether or not I have the ability to be doing the things I need to be doing.”