CHATSWORTH — The late Alwayne Jones believed anyone who could understand English should be able to do well in math, and anyone who understood math should do well in English.
“If you can follow the rules you can do either,” Jimmy Hilliard remembered his teacher, Jones, telling him in math class at Murray County High School one day.
“I said, ‘Mrs. Jones, I don’t agree with that. I think I’m pretty good at math, but not so good in English,’” he said. “She looked at me and said, ‘Mr. Hilliard, I don’t think you’ve had enough mathematics to know if you are good or not.’ But that’s not the end of the story.”
Hilliard, who graduated from Murray County High School in 1957, went on to receive advanced degrees in math and is currently a professor of finance at Auburn University. Upon his doctorate graduation in 1972, he sent Jones an invitation and recounted the story.
“I said, ‘You know. I think I’ve had enough math to say I’m good at math, but not very good at English,’” he said.
Hilliard never heard back from her, “so I don’t know what happened, but I suspect she still thought she was right,” he said.
Hilliard and Jones were among six inducted into the Murray County High School Alumni Hall of Fame on Sunday during a ceremony at the Rock Building — the current central office for the school system which was also the original Murray County High School building.
Joining them were Johnnie Sue Bradley, class of 1953; Edna Jo Butler, who taught at the school for many years; Tyson Haynes, a 1966 graduate; and Paul Henry, a 1965 graduate.
Though six were being honored, it seemed as though the stories kept coming back around to Jones.
She taught at the high school for more than 35 years. Though she preferred English, she taught any class that needed a teacher. Many of the people attending Sunday’s ceremony were influenced by Jones.
“Mrs. Jones was a class act,” said Frank Adams, who inducted Jones. “She was either very, very harsh if she needed to be or she was very kind.”
Adams was a senior needing to graduate, but wanting to avoid math.
“I needed a math course of some kind,” he said. “She came to me with an offer I couldn’t refuse. She said if I join the glee club, she’d pass me in trigonometry. I said ‘Mrs. Jones, I can spell trigonometry, but that’s about it. But, I can sing the first verse of ‘Blue Danube,’ because of her. She had a love for music. She passed away in 1999 at 91. Murray County lost a tremendous asset.”
France Adams said he had decided not to take a math his senior year of high school, but he ran into Jones the first day of school.
“She said, ‘Why were you not in my math class this morning?’ I said, ‘I didn’t want to be.’ She said, ‘Next day, be in my class,’” France Adams said. “The next day I was in her class... I was asked why, and I said it was inevitable. It was just a matter of when.”
Johnnie Bradley said she was taking piano lessons from Jones, but being a basketball player meant she often had injured fingers.
“I was going to take my piano lesson, and I couldn’t bend my knuckles very well,” she said. “She said, ‘Johnnie, you are going to have to decide if you’re going to play basketball or piano.”
Bradley chose basketball.
Jones and her husband, Hill, never had children of their own. A relative wrote a letter, which Tim Howard read, that stated “I know she would be honored.”