Jesse Jones was born in eastern Texas in 1899. His family moved to Clearview, Oklahoma and, by 1910, had settled in Edmonton, where Jesse spent his school years. His father worked as a freighter, and his mother did domestic work in order to make enough money to send Jesse and his siblings to school.
Jesse, an avid learner, was particularly fond of playing sports. From 1912 to 1928, he competed in several of them and excelled in sprinting. Participating in the 100-yard (90-metre) and 220-yard (200-metre) sprints, he only ever lost once.
Jesse played a number of sports at Victoria Composite High School and set many track and field records. He was also captain of the boys’ basketball team, the Victoria Redmen.
After completing high school, Jones became a teacher and worked at Funnell School in Keystone from 1922 to 1927.
Financial struggles were common: Jones barely made enough money to support his mother in Edmonton. According to some sources, he would run all the way from Keystone to Edmonton, a distance of some 50 miles (80 kilometres), just to see her. Demonstrating his passion for sports, Jesse, in 1922, built a basketball court for the community of Keystone.
Having won 56 amateur track events and 34 field ribbons, Jones qualified for the 110-, 240-, and 437-yard (100-, 220-, and 400-metre) sprint events at the 1924 Olympics in Paris, France. Unfortunately, he was not permitted to attend because of his teaching obligations at Funnell School in Keystone.
In 1927, Jones resigned from teaching due, in part, to financial difficulties. He returned to Edmonton to pursue other employment opportunities while continuing to care for his mother. He worked in aircraft repairs, and, eventually, he rented some land from the City of Edmonton and opened up his own parking lot and car wash. The parking lot was profitable, but he had to close it when the City reclaimed the land. His last job was as a cashier for the Centennial Library.
Jesse met his wife, Ruth Lewis, when her family moved from Campsie to Edmonton. Jesse and Ruth attended Shiloh Baptist Church together and married in 1934. In 1937, they adopted a girl whom they named Shirley Temple Jones. A year later, their son Lionel Locksley Jones was born. Lionel would make a name for himself by becoming, in 1963, the first Black lawyer admitted to the Alberta Bar; similarly, in 1977, he became Alberta’s first Black provincial judge. The Joneses raised five more children: Marlene Ruth, an administrator for the federal government; Jesse Lawrence, a professional entertainer working in Hawaii; Patricia Wealthy, a teacher in Edmonton; Sharon Jane, a speed skater and track and field athlete who died in 1964; Robert Brian, a social worker; and Michael Allan.
In 1971, in recognition of his athletic achievements and in honour of his service and dedication to the city of Edmonton, Jesse Jones was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.