Nancy Katherine Jones, golfer and beauty-shop owner

N. Katherine Jones
N. Katherine Jones
Posted: February 05, 2014

Nancy Katherine Jones, 92, formerly of Philadelphia, a pioneering golfer and business owner, died Monday, Jan. 6, of kidney failure in Knoxville, Tenn., at the home of her niece Toni Duval.

Ms. Jones, known as Katherine, was born in the Jim Crow South, and used education and a robust network of friends and family to catapult herself into a fruitful life in the North. Like many of her contemporaries, she built a business and helped out the community in which she settled.

"To me, this is a snapshot that people really don't think about," her niece said. "They kept moving slowly northward. It's the passing of an era."

Born in Dante, Va., she was the third of four daughters. Black and white children were not permitted to attend school together, so her parents sent Ms. Jones and her siblings out of state to private "colored schools."

Ms. Jones went to elementary school in Tennessee and received her high school diploma in West Virginia. She attended West Virginia State College to become certified as an elementary schoolteacher in Pennsylvania.

During this period, she was married briefly to Roland W. Jones before divorcing. They had no children.

She put aside her plan to teach in favor of becoming a beautician, a field that allowed her to be self-employed and independent, her niece said.

She attended LaSalle Beauty School in Pittsburgh to become licensed, and after moving to Philadelphia, she opened Katherine's House of Beauty in North Philadelphia, where she worked for more than 40 years.

She began playing golf in 1955 at a time when people of color were not welcome on most golf courses. In 1960, she became a member of Green's Ladies Golf Club, the oldest African American women's golf club in the Philadelphia region.

Ms. Jones' competitive nature and her love and understanding of the game led her to organize hundreds of golf tournaments from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts.

She was a charter member of the Greater Philadelphia Golf and Country Club, formed in 1967, the first black-owned 18-hole golf course in America. Situated in Sicklerville, Camden County, it's now called the Freeway Golf Course.

An original member of the board of directors, she served as the board's secretary for 37 years, retiring just days before her death.

Ms. Jones was all about elegance, her family said. She attributed her youthful appearance to a life spent with as little stress as possible, and plenty of activity.

She had beautiful skin and dressed nicely. But beneath her stately, ladylike manner, she was determined, self-reliant, and competitive. And she played to win - golf, bingo, poker, or any other game, her niece said.

She traveled extensively, visiting places such as St. Petersburg, Russia, and Las Vegas.

In later years, Ms. Jones resided at Riverside Presbyterian Apartments in Center City. She ran errands for other residents and organized an introduction to golf for them.

Surviving, besides her niece, are two nieces and a nephew.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 1, at Riverside Presbyterian Apartments, 158 N. 23d St. Interment is private.


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