Melvin Jones’ children – Caleb Martin, Joshua Eugene, Rachel Elizabeth and Sarah Lillian – during the funeral service held at Mt. Olive Cathedral C.M.E. His wife, Sharon, was held overnight at an area hospital and watched the streamed service. (Photos: Tyrone P. Easley)

Services were held last Saturday (Nov. 21) at Mt. Olive Cathedral C.M.E. Church for entrepreneur Melvin Jones, founder/CEO of the Black Business Director and a former interim editor of the Tri-State Defender.

As onsite attendees observed COVID-19 safety protocols, the homegoing service was streamed live from mtolivecathedral.com and on the church’s Facebook platform.

Proclamations were extended by members of the Memphis City Council, the Shelby County Board of Commissioners and the Tennessee General Assembly. Friends and family shared expressions.

Prior to the eulogy by Pastor Elaura James Reid of Coleman Chapel CME, there was a special tribute, words of comfort from the host pastor and acknowledgement of the love and support by Mr. Jones’ family.

Pages of obituary program featured a mantra interwoven with Mr. Jones’ interaction with others: “Keep the Faith.”

Born January 4, 1954, Mr. Jones, the son of Ernest and Musetta Jones, was the youngest of 13 children. The first in his family to be born in a hospital, Melvin loved his hometown of Hayti, Mo.

A 1972 graduate of Central High School, he excelled in academics and athletics and followed his siblings by attending Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo. A vocal campus leader, Melvin was president of the Student Government Association while majoring in business administration and minoring in criminal justice. 

He pursued a law degree at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, earning his juris doctor. Later, Mr. Jones and his wife, Sharon, moved to St. Louis, where he worked for a prestigious corporate law firm.

However, he wanted to do more, eventually became an entrepreneur. As the publisher of Sunday Morning News in 1982 and later the St. Louis, Louisville and Memphis Black Business Directories, he Melvin discovered his purpose.

Other business pursuits included the Minority Business Journal, PROUD Magazine and most recently the Memphis Business Contracting Consortium as executive director. With the Consortium, he advocated for minority participation in government and private sector business opportunities.

He created the Memphis African American Hall of Fame and recently published The Called, profiling inspirational ministers in Memphis. 

A tireless fighter for justice, he was equally committed to his family, joyfully sharing the achievements of his children: Caleb Martin (Phoenix), Joshua Eugene (Ann Arbor, MI), Rachel Elizabeth (Charlotte, NC), and Sarah Lillian (Nashville).

Mr. Jones died on the evening of Nov. 15.

He also leaves his siblings: Ellinor Perry, James (Foyette) Jones and Enoch (Sterma) Jones, all from Chicago; Clifton (Lennis) Jones of Aurora, Colo.; Eliza Luvert (Andrew) of Sugarland, Texas; Jesse (Mary) Jones of Memphis and Andrew (Elaine) Jones, Renton, Wash..

He was preceded in death by his parents and five siblings Preston, Paul, Joseph, Ernest Jr. and Vera White.