LUMBERTON — The City Council took pause during Monday’s meeting to honor an 84-year-old Robeson County native who was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal more than 60 years after his service in World War II ended.
James E. Jones, who was a member of the Tuskeegee Airmen, a black fighter pilot squadron, received the medal on July 28. Jones was one of 365 airmen to whom the award was presented during a White House ceremony in 1997, but administrative errors prevented him from attending, Councilman John Cantey said.
At the meeting, Masons of the 29th District and the district deputy grand master marched in wearing ceremonial dress to honor Jones, who serves a treasurer for the Golden Leaf Masonic Lodge No. 124.
The council presented Jones with a Pride in Lumberton Award and a resolution, which was read by Cantey, the lodge’s worshipful master.
“Tuskeegee Airman Jones served at a time when our nation was divided by racial segregation,” Cantey said, reading from the resolution. “The brave pilots overcame enormous prejudice and discrimination to defend our independence. The perseverance of these men taught Americans that skin color does not impede an airman’s ability to fight for freedom, and their determination led to the integration of our military.”
Jones served from Feb. 26, 1946, to Feb. 25, 1949 in the United States Air Force. At Lockbourne Air Force Base, now Rickenbacker Air Force Base near Columbus, Ohio, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and served as crew chief in the 100th Fighter Squadron Single Engine of the 332nd Fighter Group.
Jones is a Hilly Branch alumnus and an associate pastor at Hilly Branch Church. He is a member of the Lumber River Council of Government’s board of directors and the Lumber River Baptist Association. Jones also serves in the Lumberton Citizen Police Academy and at the Robeson County Counseling Center.