Recently, a picture of a demonstration at North Little Rock High School, where several white boys have blocked six black students from desegregating the school, has been circulated. Famed Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones can be spotted in the crowd of this infamous event that occurred in the 9th of September in 1957, the same month as the Little Rock Crisis, where the Little Rock Nine were prevented from entering segregated Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Jerry Jones himself did not deny that he was the one spotted in the photograph, although he stopped short of making an apology. His father, John Watson “Pat” Jones, ran a supermarket in North Little Rock; he believed in racial integration of grocery stores, but not of schools. Jerry’s grandfather, Joe Israel Jones, was a part of the Capital Citizens’ Council, a Little Rock offshoot of the Arkansas branch of the White Citizens’ Council. The Capital Citizens’ Council notably protested against desegregation of schools; the Council’s leader, Amis Guthridge, described racial integration as a communist plot “founded in Moscow … to mongrelize the White race in America.”
Jones said he was there only to watch, not participate. “I don’t know that I or anybody anticipated or had a background of knowing … what was involved. It was more a curious thing,” he said.
But Straeter’s photographs indicate Jones had to scurry around the North Little Rock Six to reach the top of the stairs before the Black students completed their walk up to the schoolhouse door. And while Jones offered a common explanation of the confrontation — that it was the work of older white supremacists — most of those surrounding the six young Black men were teenagers.
In that respect, Jones sees only what he wants to see. What he wanted to see looking back on that long-ago September day was a picaresque tale of a “mischievous” young Jerry, not the trauma of North Little Rock’s Black community. Deflecting questions about the nastiness of the treatment of the North Little Rock Six, he said his main concern was whether he would get in trouble. “I frankly was worried about my coach kicking my butt for doing exactly the thing they told us not to do,” Jones said, adding that he “had no advance notice” that there would be photographers on the scene who could document his presence.
Jones recently came under scrutiny for not being as advanced on racial diversity within the NFL, given his kingmaker-like stature within the League; in particular, Jones hasn’t led the way in hiring black head coaches for the team. With that being said, there are people that have been forgiving towards Jones for being spotted in the North Little Rock event.
One of six Black students involved in a tense confrontation with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and other white students outside a segregated Arkansas high school 65 years ago says “you don’t judge people by the past” and he forgives Jones.
"If he had any animosity, I don't know, but I've forgiven him for whatever reason he was there,” Harold Jean Smith said in an NBC DFW interview Friday.
Smith was 17 years old in September 1957 when an Associated Press photographer captured the iconic moment outside North Little Rock High School.
Jones, then a 15-year-old sophomore, was pictured in the back of a large group of white students.
Smith, who was wearing a long-sleeved plaid shirt in the photo, said he accepts Jones' explanation that he was just a “curious kid” who just wanted to see what was going on.
"The only thing I really remember about that is that they stood right there on the steps where we couldn't get in and they were making sounds and noise and saying things,” Smith said. “But that didn't really bother us. My father already prepared us for that."
Smith, now 82 and living in Ohio, remembers the confrontation didn't last long.
However, there are people that remain unenthused.