Longtime Atlanta teacher celebrates 100th birthday with drive-by parade

ATLANTA — A longtime Atlanta school teacher celebrated her 100th birthday with a drive-by parade Sunday.

Thelma Jones taught in the Atlanta Public School system for 32 years. She turned 100 on May 20.

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On Sunday, Jones was dressed to the nines in a floral dress and pink hat as streams of people drove by her home in Collier Heights to say happy birthday. Jones blew kisses to visitors as a jazz band played in her garage.

Some of Jones’ students were among those paying her a visit. Jones said it’s the love that she has gotten from her students that has kept her going this long.


“I tried to take care of myself and I’m survived by lovely people and wonderful students that I taught for 32 years,” Jones said. “And they just loved me and I love them.”

Jones was born on May 20,1921 and graduated from Clark College and Atlanta University, which became Clark-Atlanta University. She got a master’s in English/Education.

She went on to teach English at Henry McNeal Turner High School for over three decades. The school served Black children during the days of segregation in the deep south. Graduates of the school were some of the first to integrate universities, businesses and government institutions.

The City of Atlanta issued a proclamation celebrating her birthday and her years of service.

Jones said the big celebration was a wonderful surprise she was not expecting -- but then, she also didn’t expect to live for a century.

“I never expected to make it to 100, but I’ve been working hard, trying to make each day count and the Lord has been wonderful,” Jones said. “I’ve lived a beautiful life surrounded by caring family and friends.”

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