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Johnny Jones 2

Johnny Jones, 30 January 2004

Despite my first name, I am not a man! Now that I've established who I am not, let me tell you more about who I am.

One of the crucial decisions of my life was about going to college. In 1962, when I graduated high school in Semmes, Alabama, the choice for college was far from ordinary for women. In fact, even though my father was one of the rare college graduates in our small community, my grandfather was angry about my decision to further my education.

And after I worked for a summer, someone remarked about me, "It would be a waste for her to go to college. She can type 60 words per minute!"

But my mother encouraged me (and co-signed my loans), and I headed to Auburn University. At Auburn I began telling people my name was "Johnny." In high school, I went by "Carole," my middle name.  I even landed a band scholarship.  Our marching band traveled with the football team and did halftime shows. At that time, Bodie Hinton, the band director, was almost as revered as the coach, Shug Jordan.  Our closest rival, University of Alabama, was coached by Bear Bryant.

But after a couple of quarters (not semesters, at that time!), a local minister came out to our home in Semmes and talked to my father, convincing him that if I continued going to Auburn, I would go "astray." He was on the board of Alabama Christian College.

What a change to go from a university of 6,000 with football teams, huge buildings, and lots of tradition, to a school smaller than my high school, with only 200 students!

But I thrived at ACC. I learned a lot in my courses, and I was able to participate in - everything! I was a cheerleader (basketball - we didn't have football!), and played clarinet in a piano/woodwind duo, I was in the play and the chorus, and I was taking 22 hours. I was over committed.

Alabama Christian only offered two years of college for non-ministerial students, so after a little over a year in Montgomery, I needed to transfer. Oklahoma Christian offered two transfer scholarships for our school. Maybe my friend and I were the only ones to apply - I don't remember. But we headed for Oklahoma City to begin our junior year.

Going to OCC was a bigger transition than going to either Auburn or Alabama Christian. At both of those Alabama schools I could see my family often. Aunt Ola and Uncle Brack lived in Montgomery, and Uncle Austin and Aunt Mabel in Deatsville, not far away, so I could spend weekends with them even when I couldn't get home to Mobile.

Ministers at the Church of Christ near Deatsville, Pauline and Herbert Keith, didn't have children of their own, and they had begun looking out for me. They bought me a nice winter coat and warm clothing. What lovely people I was leaving behind!

Oklahoma was not only far away from home, it was windy!  All the girls wore light scarves all the time we went across campus, so that our hair wouldn't be totally ruined. Time to leave a building? Put on your see-through scarf, in one of many colors.

But in Oklahoma there were wonderful people, too. Two brothers and a sister from Thailand, my first international friends, often bought me lunch on Sunday, when the cafeteria was closed. We would offer the bag dinners we were given to the children where I sometimes went to minister, in a "bad" part of the city.

That was eye-opening. So was a movie I distinctly remember, where the Union soldiers were portrayed as the good guys. I mean, everyone knew the Confederacy lost the War Between the States (ie Civil War), but the South's soldiers were the heroes - weren't they? And just look at the generals! Stonewall Jackson! Robert E. Lee! Contrast them with hard-drinking Grant, or Sherman, who burned Atlanta! I mean, haven't you seen Gone With the Wind?

My assumptions were being challenged, my mind was being stretched, and there were more challenges to come for this young woman from rural Alabama. Part of God's provision.