Alphonso Lorenzo Jones in front of the Smithsonian Institution Building, 1965, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Acc. 11-008, Image no. OPA-91.

The Life and Legacy of Alphonso Lorenzo Jones

Alphonso Lorenzo Jones joined the Smithsonian in 1924 as a mechanic. He retired 41 years later as the chief of the Institution’s duplicating office.

Alphonso Lorenzo Jones arrived at the Smithsonian at age 27 as a mechanic and retired at 69 as the chief of the Institution’s duplicating office. Read about his long career of service to the Institution—from his adventures on trips with the Walcotts to his leadership around the Smithsonian.

Digital contact sheet that includes 12 photographs of Jones standing in front of the Smithsonian Cas

Before he joined the Smithsonian in 1924, Jones had already lived a fascinating life. During World War I, he taught physical education at U.S. Army camps through the sponsorship of the YMCA. According to a 1965 article in the Baltimore Afro-American, Jones supported his family after the war by jumping in the ring as a professional wrestler. He fought midnight matches, often against White opponents, at the Howard, Bijou, and Lincoln Theaters. 

The article details Jones' life before the Smithsonian as a physical education teacher with the U.S.

During his first years at the Smithsonian, Jones worked as a chauffeur-mechanic, accompanying Secretary Charles D. Walcott and Mary Vaux Walcott on their excursions across the continent. He made a total of 18 trips, often traveling with Mrs. Walcott as she collected and painted for her volumes on North American wildflowers. When Mary Vaux Walcott passed away from a heart attack in Canada in 1940, it was Jones who escorted her body back to Washington. 

Jones' draft card lists his address as 723 Park Road NW Washington DC. His birth date is Sept. 8 189

Following the death of Charles D. Walcott in 1927, Jones spent time training in the Smithsonian’s photographic laboratory, where he developed his love of photography. In 1940, he earned a role as a part-time employee with the Institution’s duplicating office, responsible for making copies of press releases, memos, leaflets, and more. Three years later, he became the department’s first full-time employee. 

And the duplicating branch transformed with new technologies and expanded as the Smithsonian grew during Jones’ more than 20 years as its leader. Though the office consisted of one full employee and a single mimeograph machine when he began, by 1965, Jones supervised six full-time staff members who operated two 1250 multilith machines, two collators, a folding machine, an electric paper cutter, and a processing box for photographic plates.

One of Jones’ many responsibilities in the duplicating office was to assemble and distribute The Torch, Smithsonian’s staff newsletter. It’s only fitting that after 41 years of service to the Smithsonian, Jones was featured on the front page in July 1965

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