Hickory – Clarence B. Jones sat in his hotel room typing up the notes from a meeting that had concluded just minutes earlier. He was writing the draft of a speech that would become known to the world as “I Have a Dream,” and Jones could tell history was in his hands.
Such moments of intimacy and power fill Last of the Lions, a new memoir that invites readers into the extraordinary life and legacy of Dr. Clarence B. Jones, one of the last inside men of the Civil Rights Movement still standing.
“As the African saying goes: If the surviving lions don’t tell their story, the hunters will get all the credit,” Jones says. In his world, the hunters are those in power squelching minority voices and rights, and he has always been one of the lions roaring back.
From suing the Pentagon to being targeted by the FBI; from the March on Washington to the deadliest prison rebellion in U.S. history; from Wall Street to the White House; and from the Mob to Martin Luther King, Jr., the heroic and harrowing life of Dr. Jones weaves a spell. “It was time for me to get my life down on paper,” he says, “not just for my children and grandchildren, but for our entire country. I am a witness to history, and I have to testify.”
Last of the Lions, published by Hickory, North Carolina-based Redhawk Publications and distributed by the University of North Carolina Press, is the second collaboration between Jones and writer/filmmaker Stuart Connelly. They previously teamed up on Behind the Dream, which Kirkus Reviews starred and called “Essential reading of surpassing political and moral importance.”
“I am honored to help my ‘godfather’ Clarence share his full story,” says Connelly. “Plenty of people know of his relationship with Dr. King, but the truth of the matter is the man is woven through nearly all the politically historical events of the past sixty-five years. With Last of The Lions, Clarence offers an unparalleled perspective into Black America. I genuinely feel history will have to be updated. Some of what he shares really should change the way we think of what’s transpired in our names.”
More than a memoir, Last of the Lions is a mirror held up to America that reflects its treatment of people of color. “I’ve come to realize that my long life is a roadmap of where we’ve been,” explains Jones, “and an invitation to consider the road ahead.” From Charlie Chaplin to Paul Robeson, Sammy Davis, Jr. to Robert Kennedy, Nat King Cole to Barack Obama, few Americans have had the opportunity to work with such influential people.
“Nothing here is at arm’s length,” says Redhawk publisher Richard Eller. “Dr. Jones’ boots-on-the-ground experience Jones brings a real vitality and urgency to history.”
Jones agrees. “People – all of us – must gather the will to make change. Every so often we reach the kind of peak that lives on like ‘I Have a Dream;’ but more often we end up watching what we’re striving for disappear in a cloud of tear gas or political cowardice. Either way, you never stop trying.”
As recently as April, the nearly 93-year-old Jones’ controversial USA Today op-ed ignited a firestorm of controversy as he called out Black and white church leaders for their silence in the face of the American gun violence epidemic. He continues to fight for social change at the juncture of racism and antisemitism as Chairman of the Board of Detroit’s Spill the Honey Foundation and the co-founder of University of San Francisco’s Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice.
Last of the Lions will be released in hardcover and e-book editions on August 1st and is available for presale at: https://tinyurl.com/DrClarenceBJones
Redhawk Publications is an artistic initiative of the Catawba Valley Community College, publishing written works of interest for the local community, North Carolina, and the entire United States. Established in 2017, Redhawk Publications offers over 125 titles to date and is one of only three community colleges nationwide with a publishing press. For additional information on Redhawk Publications, visit our website at https://redhawkpublications.com, or contact Patty Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.