Margaret Poole Jones
Margaret Poole-Jones is the embodiment of servant-leadership, having served and led her fellow Personians through the litany of roles that she has held in the community for the last five decades. She has watched Person County evolve over the years and she knows where it needs to go from here. Her story encourages each one of us to believe that we can make a difference in our community.
Q) What was your upbringing like in Person County?
A) I'm a native Personian. I was born on a farm in Woodsdale and my parents were Jim and Rose Sarah Pool. When I was eight years old, my family moved to Roxboro. So we lived on 4th St. at the time. It is now Walker St. The house is no longer there, but it was located between the Cookout and the Catholic Church. I am the third of six children and we had a good childhood. We were just like everyone else in the neighborhood, we had hard working parents. My dad worked in the water department for the city of Roxboro and my mom was a domestic worker. But I always polish it up and say she was a household technician (laughs). But back in the day we had to endure the perils of total segregation. And that was always a concern for me because I didn't understand why. As a child, my dad always told me, you want to know too much, you’re too inquisitive. But even then, I often defied the norm and I went through the front door like the white girls instead of the back door. And my parents were really concerned about that because they feared that someone might try to harm me for doing that. But that never deterred me.
And as far as school is concerned, we had to walk to school. We went to Roxboro Elementary School which was located where First Baptist Church is now. And the high school, Person County High, was located where Southern Middle School is now. These were the Black schools during segregation. All of us except my youngest brother graduated from Person County High. I graduated in 1960. Before covid-19 started, we had made plans to celebrate our 60th class reunion. But of course, unfortunately, we had to cancel.
After high school, I just really wanted to go college. My parents were sticklers for education and they instilled in us the value of a good education. No bad grades came into the house. My dad always told us that, if you get it in your head, no one can take it away. And so he made sure that we had all of the resources we needed. So after graduating from high school, I worked a year and then in 1961 I enrolled at North Carolina A&T College, as it was known at the time. Now it’s North Carolina A&T State University. And my brother, by that time, had joined the military, so he said, I'm going to help you, I want you to go. So I enrolled and majored in business administration and I graduated in the class of 1965. So I'm an Aggie. Aggie born, Aggie bred, when I die I’ll be an Aggie dead. Aggie Pride! (laughs)
Also, through the years I took different courses at Piedmont Tech, now Piedmont Community College. And I took correspondence courses, which today would be online courses. So I was always active in the pursuit of education.
Q) What was your career path and what are your proudest achievements?
A) After I came home from A&T, I really didn't have a job, But because of the Federal Education Program that was issued to the federal government, I was able to get a job with the Person County School system. First, I worked at South Elementary as a teacher assistant. But that was not my calling. So the next year, I was offered a job at the central office located in the Person County Office Building.
So I started off as the administrative assistant to the program director. And I never will forget the advice my mom gave me when I went to work there. She said, the Lord has blessed you with a job and all I want you to do is do your job, mind your business, and don't get in other folks business.
So I listen to her and I worked for the system for 40 years, and had many positions during that time. Sometimes it was challenging, especially being the only black in my department and so often I had to shed a lot of tears and keep my mouth shut when I wanted to sound off. But I could hear my mama in the back of my mind and I would calm down. But overall it was a very rewarding experience.
After college I had been offered a job in Washington at the Labor Department and a job in Raleigh, but Washington was too far away and I never wanted to commute so I didn’t take those positions. I was just happy and blessed to be at home working a respectable job and a job where I could make a difference in other people's lives. And then on top of that, I felt like I needed to stay here to make sure my parents were taken care of. And when I had my children, I wanted to be near them when they needed something. During the day, I would be able to get to them if there was problem and I wouldn't have to worry about driving all the way from another location to get here for them. So that was good for me.
Q) What organizations or community endeavors do you participate in?
A) I’ve been a part of so many different organizations, it’s hard to remember them all. And a lot of them are no longer in existence. But in everything that I was involved with, my concern was always being able to help the underserved and underprivileged people in our county. That was very important to me. So I made sure that I involved myself with organizations that would allow me to help somebody else.
I was a member of the Human Relations Board, it’s not functioning now, but I was a member of that. I served on the Person County Schools Community Relations Board. I served on the DSS board and the Person County Museum board. And I am a member of the Retired School Personnel, both locally and on the state level. Working on these boards, I knew that any decision we made would help someone here in Person County somehow. I consider myself a servant of the people, and if I could involve myself in something that would help someone else, that’s where you would find me.
As far as the DSS board is concerned, I was involved in helping to hire our first black male director. And as far as the museum board is concerned, I helped make sure that we had space to display our Black history here in Person County and recognize our Black citizens who contributed to that history.
I am currently on the Seeds of Lebanon board and our goal is to help the elderly. And I am a member of Fidelity chapter #576 Order of Eastern Star and, of course, our aim there is to be able to help others as well.
Also, I'm very active in my church, Prospect Hill Missionary Baptist Church. I've been the secretary there for 25 plus years and I've held a lot of other positions there. And I'm also very active in the Cedar Grove Missionary Baptist Association, which my church is a part of.
And I’m also an inspirational speaker. That gives me the opportunity to reach a lot of folks. As I said before, my passion is to help others, and thankfully I’ve been able to do that as much as possible.
Q) Why is it important that women be recognized for their foundational work in our community and our nation?
A) I think it's a great thing that someone decided that March should be Women's History Month. That way, our history and our accomplishments can be told and can be made known because women have made so many valuable contributions in the making of this nation.
And when I think about women who have made contributions, I think of women like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Madam C.J. Walker, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary McLeod Bethune, the women of NASA who were portrayed in the movie Hidden Figures, Nancy Pelosi, and of course Stacey Abrams and LaTosha Brown and the work that they did to make Georgia voters come out and vote. And the result was very positive.
Then we also have so many women presidents of colleges and universities. And we are blessed here in Person County to have a female president at Piedmont Community College. And the most recent one that we can really be proud of is Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States.
So in my opinion, women are designed to get the job done. Let’s be honest, women changed the dynamics of our government in the last election. So if you want a job done and done well, assign it to a woman (laughs).
Q) What do you envision for the future of Person County?
A) I feel that Person County will eventually come to the realization that women are capable of holding key positions, especially in our government and our law enforcement and other major organizations. And that women here will be recognized for the work they do. We already have, as I stated, a woman president at PCC and the mayor of Roxboro is a woman. So I feel we are and we are making progress. And if we keep it going, good things will happen. Good things will happen.
Q) What is your advice for girls and young women who may look to you as motivation?
A) Hard work pays off. Get your education. And always let your reach exceed your grasp—reach higher than what you can grab hold of. And if you set your eyes on the prize, don't stop until you accomplish it. Don't be a quitter. And by all means, don't let anybody tell you that you can't do it. Trust in God and he will be with you. He will reward openly for the good work you do.