Local artist Dewayne Moore turned his hobby into a tribute to his sister, the late Sarah Ann King, by embellishing a set of vintage seats from the J.J. Jones High School Auditorium and donating them back to the J.J. Jones High School Alumni Inc.
The donation was in honor of his late sister, who was a 1965 graduate of the school.
J.J. Jones High graduated its last class in 1966. The memories of those who attended the school are being kept alive by a reunion held every other year in addition to other activities. The former school served generations of African-American students in this area from 1936-1966.
The association’s ongoing projects are focused on getting new curtains for its stage now that the stage floor has been redone.
“Dewayne’s donation of the seats back to us seemed like a Christmas present,” said association spokesperson Edward McDaniel. He explained the seats were taken out as part of a renovation project to the school’s auditorium which began seven years ago. McDaniel said about 28 seats were salvaged from the historic auditorium and some seats are part of a display in the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.
“He (Moore) never got to attend Jones School. He was among the first in the area to attend Franklin when the schools were integrated,” continued McDaniel. “He’d heard stories of how parents, teachers and students had a major part in the auditorium. I remember Sarah in grammar school telling us she would be getting a new baby brother.”
McDaniel said the addition was originally a gymnatorium in 1947. He said this latest project was accomplished with matching funds from the county. The seat removal was a step in converting the space into a community center when the county again supplying matching funds for new bathrooms for the facility.
Jewell Hauser found Moore’s gift of the seats adorned with the school’s mascot a fitting tribute to his sister. Hauser and King were both members of the Jones School Class of 1965. McDaniel is a member of the Class of 1964.
Hauser said King was involved in a variety of school activities. Among other things she was a majorette, cheerleading captain and a lead singer in a popular student singing group. Hauser said King was the type of cheerleader who had the personality to make everyone feel like a part of the team and could fire up their enthusiasm.
She said King moved easily among many groups at the school as a person who united classmates. She and McDaniel fondly recalled King’s voice among the spirited singing on the school’s activity bus which the students “got to rocking and rolling” as they sang while traveling to games.
Dewayne Moore is the sort of no-nonsense, direct artist who has developed the ability to act on his creative inspiration about a project and just do it. His gift for drawing is effortless and as ingrained and natural as the timbre of his voice.
“I always liked to draw since I was little,” said Moore, who has never had a lesson in art. “I started out drawing stick people and it went from there. One day I thought I’d try to paint and picked up a brush and started to paint.”
He has received requests to do subjects ranging from scenery to portraits. He especially likes to find out about the interests of his subjects and then include that in the work.
“I had a lady ask me once to paint a picture of her son. I asked her what he liked,” said Moore. “She told me he liked Thomas the Train and that’s what I drew him in.”
One of the recipients of a set of seats happened to be a neighbor of Moore’s, who saw them and asked him about the seats once he found out they were from his big sister’s alma mater. He said he got in touch with McDaniel who told him he thought all the seats were gone but he’d look anyway. McDaniel found some seats.
“They were in pretty bad shape when I got them,” recalled McDaniel. “That’s when the idea hit me to do something for my sister and include the school’s mascot and their bus.” He knew of the school’s colors, gold and maroon. He said at first alumni could only supply him a black and white photo of Old Cherokee, the school’s bus. McDaniel found him a color picture but it was also just of the front of the bus. Moore had to do some research on 1940 bus styles and was able to get the details he needed to bring Old Cherokee back to life on the seats.
Moore said he took the seats apart and fashioned new wooden backs and seats, cleaned and repainted the hardware and re-assembled them. The frames are in maroon and the handles are golden. The J. J. Jones Indian and Old Cherokee are emblazoned on the seats. McDaniel so liked the result so much he approached Moore about making another set for the auditorium.
Moore accepted no money for his work and donated the seats to the association to honor his big sister. He said a part of this stemmed from him always hearing the school described as a family by its alumni. He said his art is more about the satisfaction of creating than it is the final product.
“I guess my reason for continuing drawing is that it’s just fun,” said Moore, who of late has focused on painting. He said he is working on a picture that will be a Christmas present. “It’s a God-given talent because I haven’t had any training.”
He said he has heard alumni talk about how much more Jones School meant to its students.
“I was so impressed by their level of commitment to the school,” said Moore. “That auditorium was built by students. It’s really something to hear all those stories of the school. It was a family up there.”
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.