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DREF remembers the life and legacy of Dr. Edith Irby Jones

In remembrance of Edith Irby Jones, M.D., who passed on July 15, 2019, DREF President Carolyn E. Lewis and the DREF Board of Directors applaud her life and legacy as a pioneering African American doctor and national leader. Dr. Jones, age 91, died at her home in Houston, TX.
DREF remembers the life and legacy of Dr. Edith Irby Jones

Dr. Edith Irby Jones

Dr. Jones held a prominent role in DREF history as one of the initial members of the Foundation's Board of Directors. She is one of 14 persons who signed DREF's articles of incorporation. 

Born in rural Arkansas on December 23, 1927, Dr. Jones was the first Black student to matriculate in an all-white medical school in the South when she enrolled in 1948 at what is now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. After losing a sister to typhoid fever in the 1930s, the young Edith noticed that poor, Black families in rural Arkansas did not have access to medical care and often died prematurely for lack of having it. She vowed then, as a young girl, to become a doctor-- but a "different kind of doctor," she said. She told an oral historian with the University of Arkansas Libraries: "Money wasn't going to make any difference with me." She spent her lifetime trying to live out a childhood dream."

Most of her career was spent running an internal medicine practice in Houston's predominantly African American Third Ward, and it has been said that she sometimes accepted eggs and vegetables as payment. Throughout her career, she was involved in the Civil Rights Movement, volunteering with the NAACP, and was a major advocate for improving medical care for persons in need. She was also actively committed to recruiting more African Americans to enroll in medical school. In the mid-1980s, Dr. Jones was the first woman elected as president of the National Medical Association. 

She earned a bachelor's degree in science at Knoxville College in Tennessee in 1948 and completed a graduate course at Northwestern University in Evanston to prepare for medical school. She enrolled in the University of Arkansas Medical School in 1948. 

Dr. Jones was married for 39 years to James B. Jones, a college professor, who died in 1989, They were the parents of three children. She was initiated into Delta Sigma Theta Sorority in 1946 and at the time of her passing she was a member of Houston Metropolitan Alumnae Chapter. Heartfelt condolences to the Jones Family and all who knew and loved Dr. Edith Irby Jones. 

Thank you, Dr. Jones, for being an extraordinary healthcare advocate, devoted physician, committed civil rights activist, and visionary founding member of the Delta Research and Educational Foundation. On your shoulders we proudly stand!

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