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Thomas E. and Esther B. Jones Collection

Identifier: FMS-21

Scope and Contents

The Thomas E. and Esther B. Jones Collection consists of personal papers of Thomas E. Jones, the president of Fisk University from 1926 to 1946 and Earlham College from 1946 to 1958, and his wife Esther (Balderston) Jones, a missionary teacher in Japan.  It contains significant material on Quaker work in Japan, race relations, Earlham College, and Quaker affairs in the twentieth century.


  • 1911-1974
  • Other: Date acquired: 01/01/1992


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on access.

Conditions Governing Use

Some materials may be protected by copyright. Permission to reproduce and to publish for commercial purposes must be requested from the Archivist.

Biographical or Historical Information

Thomas Elsa Jones, known universally as Tom, was born near Fairmount, Indiana, March 22, 1888, the son of David and Sarah (Thomas) Jones.  After graduating from Earlham College in 1912, he entered Hartford Theological Seminary and was recorded a Friends minister.  He then served as field secretary for the Young Friends of North America until 1917, when he married Esther Balderston, a member of a Philadelphia Quaker family.  She was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, April 11, 1891, and after graduating from Wellesley had attended Hartford to prepare for work as a missionary in Japan. The Joneses lived in Japan from 1917 until 1924, teaching in several schools, working under the auspices of the YMCA and the YWCA, doing relief work in Siberia and in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake of 1923 for the American Friends Service Committee and aiding the small number of Quakers in Japan.  Simultaneously, Tom Jones was conducting fieldwork for his Columbia University dissertation in sociology.  A study of Japanese mountain people, it was a challenge to the widely accepted theories of scientific racism current in the 1920s. In 1926, Tom Jones was appointed president of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.  In his twenty years as its head, he made it the first fully accredited black in the United States, raising its endowment to an unprecedented level.  He and Esther Jones also undertook two major projects for the American Friends Service Committee, studying race relations in South Africa in 1937-1938 and in the United States during World War II. In 1946, Tom Jones became president of Earlham College.  His record there was similar, raising ten million dollars in ten years and presiding over the transformation of Earlham from respectable Midwestern church school to national college.  After his retirement in 1958, he continued to work as an independent consultant, and was a key figure in the establishment of the Earlham School of Religion. Esther B. Jones died in Richmond on April 4, 1967.  In 1968 Tom Jones married Elizabeth (Walter) Furnas, the widow of Earlham vice president Paul Furnas.  She died in 1972.  Tom Jones died in Richmond, August 5, 1973.

Note written by


14 Boxes

Language of Materials


Method of Acquisition

Donation. These papers came to the Friends Collection from three sources. Most were received as a gift in 1992 from the three children of Tom and Esther Jones: David Jones, Canby Jones, and Catherine Gaskill. A second group, consisting of letters from the Joneses in Japan to Esther Jones's parents, was received as a gift from the family of David Telfair in 1995. Professor of History Jackson Bailey donated Tom Jones's dissertation notes in 1995.

Accruals and Additions

No additions or accruals are expected.

Related Materials

A small collection of Tom and Esther Jones Papers, mainly latters from Esther Balderston to her family from Japan before her marriage and material relating to the Joneses' trip to South Africa, is in the Quaker Collection of Haverford College. Tom Jones's presidential office files are part of the college archives.

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Repository Details

Part of the Friends Collection and Earlham College Archives Repository