Dorothy "Happy" Jones, Legendary Activist, Dies

Involved in progressive causes of all kinds, Jones worked tirelessly across political, racial, and social lines to empower the disestablished and broaden the rights of the larger Memphis community.

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"Happy" Jones
  • "Happy" Jones

Memphis lost one of its most valuable citizens Thursday when Dorothy Jones, better known to family, friends, and the world at large as “Happy,” passed away at the age of 80.

Happy Jones was born a member of the socially prominent Snowden family but, like her late sisters Sally and Edie, embraced society in the largest possible sense. She involved herself in every imaginable public issue aimed at broadening justice and opportunity for citizens at large — from the sanitation workers’ struggle of 1968 to black-white comity to women’s rights to fairness and equality for the LGBTQ community.

She was an activist for numerous other causes, worked as a marriage and family therapist and social worker, and was a recipient of the Women’s foundation for a Greater Memphis Legends award. Politically, she worked within the Republican Party to help establish a two-party political system during the 1960s and 1970s but became an independent working across party lines as her ever-growing progressive streak became irreconcilable with the rightward drift of the party she had been born into.

In the words of her longtime friend, Memphis congressman Steve Cohen: "No one made Memphis more a City of Good Abode than Happy Jones. She was always in the forefront of progress and justice. Happy was a leader for over 50 years, crossing political and racial lines. Hers was a life well lived."

At election time, for the last couple of decades, she had joined with two other activist women, Jocelyn Wurzburg and Paula Casey, in publishing a widely noted ballot indicating their respectuive choices for public office. (The three of them usually agreed, but not always, and they made a point of stating the reasons for their recommendations.)

Happy's death follows that of her late husband Fred Terry, who passed away in September. She is survived by three daughters: Dottie Jones of Memphis, Meade Jones Hanna of Virginia, and Whitney Devine of Washington state.

According to Dottie Jones, arrangements are being made for a memorial service at Grace-St. Luke's Episcopal Church on Wednesday, November 22 at 11:00 a.m.

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