Mrs. Ella Mae Jones...Voting for a Better Life
By: Angela M. Castelucci
Staff writer for Perry Newspapers
Published: October 31, 2008
Ella Mae Jones is one of 1,250 to have already cast their votes in the 2008 General Election via an absentee ballot.
While her patriotism is noteworthy, even more remarkable is the fact that Mrs. Jones turned 102 years old in September and that makes her the oldest active voter in Taylor County.
Her only question to others is...what are you waiting for?
"Voting is important. You vote for a better life. Better convenience. You vote to make times better," Jones said.
Election records show that Jones registered to vote in June 1962. Computer entries dating back to 1982 show that she has not missed one election since then, and that is a pretty good indication that she never missed an opportunity to vote in the 20 years proceeding the records.
"I don't want to miss it,
Although born in Georgia, Jones is quick to say that Perry is her home.
"It's where my roots are. All my memories and good times came to me in Taylor County."
It is the years in her most distant past which slowly come forward as she talks. As first, she is adamant that "I don't remember anything." But as the conversation gains speed, Jones is soon talking about growing up on a farm, working in the potato fields with her brothers and sisters, and leaving home to find her own way when she was just a young girl.
"I've done lots in my life, bringing up my own self."
If you ask how her journey brought her to Perry, Jones starts her tale at the very beginning...digging potatoes alongside her brother. Shaking peanuts when it was harvesting time.
"We were all out barefoot. And it was so cold. I remember it being so cold. When 12 o'clock came, my brother would dig out these sweet potatoes and cracklings that my mother sent with us. We didn't know what shoes was.
"We worked and daddy got the money. We didn't know what money was. The first money I ever got was a buffalo nickel."
Jones relates her memories in snapshots as they come to her with a saltiness that only someone who has lived more than a century can master. Her strength of self was honed during a period of almost unimaginable destitution.
"When I came to Perry, I didn't have anything. But I met some good people who treated me well. I did a lot of working in Taylor County and Taylor County put me where I am. When I first came here, I made $2.50 a week cooking and taking care of children. I raised a lot of black and white children in Taylor County."
"Other folks' children were my children. I did raise two boys. They were birthed by my sister, but I gave them something I didn't have, which was an education."
"My daddy said that boys were the only ones who should go to school and that girls should stay home and work."
"I learned to read and write a little from the children that I took care of.
"I worked hard all of life--not part of my life--all my life. I washed and ironed and cleaned houses for white folks."
And then she "ran up on a good boy. Hornest Jones. The first time he came to see me, he brought me a can of pork and beans. It was the first time I ever ate pork and beans. I opened the can with a hammer and knife."
They married and were soon finding their way together.
"He worked at Lee Cypress and then he started working for the city until his death."
The two sons they raised--Dr. Robert Cummings and Elbert Cummings--would go on to make great strides in their own right.
Her pride in both boys is evident when their names are mentioned and the loss of Robert (who died last year) brings tears to her eyes.
The emotions swell and then ebb back into memories.
"We had four cows on my daddy's farm and I remember getting up early and milking those cows. My mama had a big bucket and I can see it now so clearly. You may think I'm lying, but I'm not.
"Those old cows gave a lot of milk and I had to stand up and churn, churn the butter.
"We got along good on my daddy's farm."
A long road of memories stretches from that Georgia farm to Jones' cozy Third Street home today. The trials, tribulations and triumphs of Jones' journey on that road...well, "nobody knows but the Lord and me."
DANA SOUTHERLAND, SUPERVISOR OF ELECTIONS, Taylor County
108 N JEFFERSON ST., SUITE 202, PERRY, FL 32347 | P O BOX 1060, PERRY, FL 32348
PHONE: 850.838.3515 | FAX: 850.838.3516 | email@example.com