Nancy Bondurant Jones: Shenandoah Legend

Posted on: December 18, 2017

On Wednesday, December 13th, the Shenandoah Valley lost a beloved member of the community. Nancy Bondurant Jones was a well-known author throughout the Valley, and she leaves a unique mark on all that either read her work or had the pleasure of working with her to inspire the next generations. Selena St. Andre, Special Collections Student Assistant, has been working all semester to process a recent addition to the papers of Nancy Bondurant Jones held in Special Collections. Selena wrote this tribute, and update about her work on the collection.

Here at Special Collections, we are lucky to house a significant amount of Nancy Bondurant Jones’s work. In October, I began processing a new addition to a previous collection of papers that we received from Jones in 2004. This recent acquisition comprises Jones’s writing material throughout her career as well as documents from organizations that she participated in and contributed to. This collection, combined with the original 2004 accession, gives us a glimpse at the impact that Jones made on the community.

Jones began her career as a school teacher, spending an impressive 29 years in local schools. After retiring from teaching, Jones spent the remainder of her career as a freelance writer. She will be remembered by locals for her weekly column in the Daily News-Record titled “Remembrances,” which ran for 11 years in the 1990s. In this weekly column, Jones related personal memories to local history. Other than writing for the DNR, Jones contributed to multiple local magazines and journals. She also authored many books, including Rooted on Bluestone Hill: A History of James Madison University (2004) and An African American Community of Hope: Zenda: 1869-1930 (2007), along with many others focusing on local businesses and institutions. Outside of her writing career, she was active in the community through various organizations including the National Association of American Pen Women, the Sorenson Institute, and the Emmanuel Episcopal Church. Jones also had a unique connection to JMU. In 1989 she began working as the social events coordinator for then-president Dr. Ronald E. Carrier. In time, Jones began writing speeches for the late Dr. Carrier before concluding her time at JMU.

With the recent 2017 donation, the papers housed at Special Collections increased from 1/2 box to nearly 18 boxes of research material. In addition to papers from JMU alumni, the collection mainly consists of material that Jones used for research purposes, but there are also personal papers from her writings and time at JMU.

Through her community work, teaching career, and writing, Nancy Bondurant Jones made a significant impact in the Shenandoah Valley, which has been why processing her collection has been so enjoyable. Essentially encompassing a large part of her life’s work, the collection is filled with fascinating finds that highlight Jones’s commitment to her craft and the care that she put into everything she did. Enjoy this excerpt from an essay written by Jones on teaching strategies that work.

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