You know, I think everyone has a place in this world which they make for themselves.

-Juanita Jones, 1969

Last week, we set aside John Paul Jones and turned our attention to the Lady from the Suitcase: Mrs. Juanita Jones.   The beginning of the post focused on Juanita’s childhood and her conservative education at the Southern Junior College.  We were introduced to a young woman who, in her youth, met the camera with a bashful blush.  Later in age, we were served up a cool reserve. 

Suitcase-59

Then I pulled a M. Night Shyamalan move on yer butts and dropped this picture.

Juanita and Chet

That’s a picture from the Tennessean in 1969, taken at a Country Music Association awards ceremony where Chet Atkins (left) was named Instrumentalist of the Year.  Next to him, Juanita Jones, Nashville’s representative for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

The only link I had between these two women was Juanita’s obituary, which appeared in the November 12th, 2004 edition of the Tennessean.

November 12, 2004. Preceded in death by her husband, John Paul Jones. Her husband had been employed by the Seventh Day Adventist Southern Publishing Association before his death in 1995. Mrs. Jones was a private secretary for Chet Atkins, and after that, worked for a number of years for CASH BOX, which was a music industry magazine. She had resided in the Mariner Health Care Center, as a result of a stroke, which occurred approximately 2 years prior to her death.

That was 100% my John Paul Jones, but could that be my Juanita?

———————-

Obituaries can not be relied on.  Unless the deceased was a prominent figure (and even then, it’s up for debate) the accuracy of obituaries are always in question.  The obituaries published in your local rag are the result of paid submissions from family members or acquaintances.  They can be inaccurate, purposely deceitful and they are definitely NOT fact checked as proven in this incredible correction from The New York Times in 2013.

An obituary on Sept. 20 about Hiroshi Yamauchi, the longtime president of Nintendo, included a quotation from a 1988 New York Times article that inaccurately described the Nintendo video game Super Mario Bros. 2. The brothers Mario and Luigi, who appear in this and other Nintendo games, are plumbers, not janitors.

If you want to make a genealogist’s head explode, tell them “I read it in their obituary, so it must be true”.  I learned my lesson early on while researching the death of John Paul Jones, and my new genealogist friends pointed me in the right direction with tender affection.

With only one secondary source linking Juanita-from-the-suitcase and Juanita-from-the-celebrity-pages, my intention with this post was to present them side by side.  We were going to compare pictures and pick up every name that was dropped in connection to Juanita Jones of ASCAP and lay them all out on the table next to my scratchy negatives and laser printed census records.  We were going to hum and hah, compare cheekbones and maybe muse on how a conservative wife of a preacher’s son ended up rubbing elbows with the stars.

We certainly weren’t going to crack the case.

That was, until this showed up in the inbox of manfromthesuitcase@gmail.com, courtesy of TK at Before My Time.

Meet Juanita Jones

This article appeared in the December 7th, 1969 edition of the Tennessean newspaper.  Within the article, we are introduced to her husband, John “Boxer” Jones.

Boxer Jones

John Paul Jones was an accountant at the Southern Publishing Company, a SDA publication business.  Seeing as there are two John Paul Joneses in Nashville, active within the same organization, it’s possible Juanita’s obituary could still be inaccurate and that our JPJ from the suitcase is still not this John “Boxer” Jones.

I had a lot of circumstantial evidence, but I needed the final nail in the coffin.   After hours of reading through every article about Juanita in the Tennessean and in Billboard Magazine and re-reading every single piece of source material I had found on JPJ, not to mention several manic pacing sessions littered with bursts of profanity (don’t judge, I am re-watching HBOs The Newsroom)…I think I found it.

The 1960 Nashville City directory lists Juanita Jones and John Paul Jones along side their Kennel Club colleague, John “Monkey” Jones.

The entry for John P (Juanita P) lists John’s occupation as an accountant for the Southern Publishing Association and states their address as 1911 Lone Oak Circle.

Another excerpt from the Meet Juanita Jones article:

Lone Oak Circle

Although I had a stack of articles on Nashville’s Juanita Jones, I didn’t have one that mentioned her husband or any personal details.  TK spied the missing jigsaw piece under my coffee cup and graciously pointed it out to me.  After that, the whole picture made sense again.

———————-

It’s not the first time a fellow research nerd has lent me a helping hand.  A dear friend from high school reached out very early on and knocked down my first brick wall.  Jeremy made the connection between JPJ’s conscientious objector status in WWII and his faith.  He pointed me in direction of the online Seventh Day Adventist Archives, which provided me with a wealth of family information on the Joneses and the Pipkins.  We wouldn’t be here today without that tip.

It must be noted that Jeremy is a gem of a gentleman and years from now, when his family are researching their roots, they will be delighted to find out that both Jeremy and his first born are both leap year babies.  Read more at Raleigh’s News and Observer, which featured a story on this adorable coincidence after the birth of his son in March. Congratulations, Jeremy!

———————-

I’m still working on a full timeline of Juanita’s accomplishments, but I’ll share just a few more things with you for now.

The first mention of Juanita I can find in print:

toe toasters 1958

The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee) · Mon, Feb 3, 1958 · Page 7

Almost two years later, she appears listed as Chet’s Girl Friday.

billboard cover 2Gal friday 1959

November 30th, 1959 edition of Billboard Magazine

10 years later, Juanita had this to say in the Meet Juanita Jones article:

Many Jobs

———————-

I never thought I would ever be a person who would pump my fist the air and say “you go, girl!” but I can’t stop myself.  In 10 years, from Girl Friday to Woman of the Year…and she didn’t stop in 1969.  I wonder if she ever looks back at her 1934-1935 Southern Junior College’s School Catalog and laughs and laughs and laughs.

Students are expected to refrain from all improper behavior; from profane or unbecoming language; from the use of tobacco and alcoholic drinks; from card playing; from attendance at pool rooms, theaters, dances or places of questionable amusement; from having or reading pernicious literature; and from having or playing cheap popular music.

I know I do.  Cheap popular music for the win!

———————-

Featured Image caption – The green thumb of this Music City USA executive, Juanita Jones, is evident in the blooming plants in the greenhouse at her home on Lone Oak Circle.  mrs. Jones is company representative for ASCAP.

Featured Image source – The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee) · Sunday, Jan 8th, 1967 · Page 11F

5 thoughts on “From Girl Friday to Woman of the Year – Meet Juanita Jones

  1. I am so confused! Like the song….”Is she is or is she ain’t?” You will have to tell my muddled brain straight out–this songbird Juanita Jones is the Juanita for suitcase or she is not. The college background and things are messing me up! Love the entire story from very beginning. Yes, what a book and movie it would make. I never want this to end!

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    • Judy – We can confirm that our Juanita is ASCAP Junaita – I have an article that mentions the song (produced by Chet) as a nod to Juanita but by name only…the character of the song is not based on her : )

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, but honestly, this is such a hard leap to make as early photos with the shy demure girl– to the sophisticated lady. You can’t let that story go unattended! I want to know how such a dramatic transformation can take place. Do you have the obit (maybe I’m jumping the gun) on the other Juanita Jones? Who were her parents? What was her story–I mean with this much similarity– she is also an interesting character. Or is this getting too side-tracked? You are an awesome story teller. Must have some Irish in your background! 🙂

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      • There’s one Juanita Jones and it’s definitely the lady from the suitcase : ) I am working on a Juanita timeline and accomplishments post – but I’m also itching to get back into the suitcase and explore some more of the artifacts we’ve yet to see. So you may have to wait a little longer for more Juanita action!

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