The year 2017 marks  50 years since the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the symbolic leader of African-Americans and a world figure known for the furtherance of the civil rights movement.  Despite his untimely death, King’s legacy endured in many ways and inspired other community leaders to build their own legacies.

One of them was Dr. Lew Jones, who was honored at the 15th annual scholarship awards breakfast hosted by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Committee  in 2017.   Jones established the committee after moving to The Villages 17 years ago with his wife, Barbara, of the Village of Bridgeport at Miona Shores.

Lew died in November of heart complications, but like King, left a spark.

His legacy in The Villages and surrounding communities will live on in his family, friends, neighbors and the local students he helped with hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships.

Eight more students were added to the roster in 2017. This brought the grand total to 75 students who have received a collective $300,000 in scholarships since the committee was founded.

At first, the number of scholarships and the amount of money was small.  Students were recognized with a plaque, but now students are awarded funds to help with their educational journey. None of this would have happened if Lew Jones didn’t have a vision.

When Lew co-founded the committee, he wanted to help students afford higher education and also ensure that the younger generation doesn’t forget the actions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As part of the application process, students are asked to write an essay reflecting the actions by King, Indian activist Mahatma Gandhi and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune.

The scholarships will help students for years to come, and not just to pay for books and tuition.

Lew Jones had a history of not just empowering others, but also giving his all to whatever he set his mind to.  He earned a baseball scholarship to Florida A&M University that eventually led to a stint in the Georgia-Florida minor league baseball organization, where he helped break down the color barrier.

He later earned his doctoral degree, rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel with the Air National Guard and spent 25 years as an educational leader in Maryland.  Jones also was an active member of the African-American Club of The Villages.

The number of local students helped in the present and past is a testament to Jones’ accomplishments in the community. Partnerships with local schools, counselors and teachers have helped highlight students who have not only excelled in academics, but also in helping others.

Lew Jones would be extremely proud that his true legacy is not what he accomplished during his lifetime, but that the legacy and foundation will continue to live after his death.