Sam Jones Expressway
Location: Former Airport Location
Sam Jones, first president of Indianapolis Urban League
The road was originally known as the Indianapolis Airport Expressway. When the new midfield terminal was under construction, it became clear that the original Airport Expressway would no longer led to the airport terminal. Federal and state officials notified then Mayor Peterson that the street needed a new name to avoid confusion. Peterson selected Sam Jones, the first director of the Indianapolis Urban League.
Jones was born on March 3, 1928, in Heidelberg, Mississippi to Henry and Sallie Belle Jones. He graduated from Clark College in Atlanta in 1950 and went on to earn a master’s degree in sociology in 1954 and a master’s degree in social work in 1956, both from Atlanta University.
Jones spent nearly his entire career working for the Urban League. He started with leagues in Ohio, Michigan, and Minnesota before coming the first president of the Indianapolis Urban League in 1966. As president, Jones sought to improve the lives of all Indianapolis residents through his work in education, housing, healthcare and civil rights.
In addition to his work for the Urban League, Jones served the Indianapolis community in every way imaginable. He was a member of the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, Near North Development, Methodist Hospital Foundation, Indiana Conference on Social Concerns and Citizens Complaint Advisory Board.
Under his leadership, the Urban League raised the money to construct a permanent home for the Urban League – now known as the Sam H. Jones Center – along Indiana Avenue. He retired from the Urban League at the close of 2002.
Jones also received numerous awards including the Whitney M. Young Race Relations Leadership Award from the National Urban League, Distinguished Alumni Award from the National Association for Equal Opportunities and Higher Education nominated by Clark Atlanta University, Oscar McCulloch Social Concerns Award and Sagamore of the Wabash from the State of Indiana.
He also was awarded honorary degrees from Vincennes University, Butler University, Martin University, Christian Theological Seminary and Indiana University. Mayor Peterson also named the city’s top diversity award the “Sam H. Jones Best of the Best Award”.
Jones was an active member of Alpha Eta Boule, Omega Psi Phi, Rotary, NAACP, a 33rd Degree Mason and the Quarter Century Club of the National Urban League.
Jones was married to Prethenia Kent Jones, with whom he had three children Marya, Sam Jr. and Michael.
All photos courtesy of Sergio Bennett.