North Carolina man finally able to celebrate high school graduation after 47 years

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WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) – Friends and family, classmates and congregation gathered on Saturday to celebrate the graduation of Bishop Samuel Jones Jr.

On Saturday, Jones, who will turn 66 on Tuesday, celebrated his graduation. His wife Regina Jones said this day is a special one.

“It brings closure. It brings healing and it brings a sense of accomplishment and a sense of pride for him to finally be able to tell his story,” Regina Jones said.

In 1976, Samuel Jones was not allowed to attend his own graduation from Chocowinity High School.

Jones says his grade was one point too low in pre-algebra to graduate. However, nobody informed him or his family about the grade. 

When Jones showed up to pick up his cap and gown on the day of graduation, he was told he wasn’t going to graduate.  He had no idea he wasn’t on track to graduate; he was a good student, Jones says. 

His mother worked in the Beaufort County Schools system and found an assistant principal in Washington to tutor Jones. 

He received two weeks of tutoring, retook his pre-algebra test, and passed. 

Jones received his degree from Chocowinity High School, but it was given without the fanfare and celebrations usually associated with graduation because it was two weeks after. 

Jones said he had no idea there was a grade problem until the day of graduation and that’s what made it so painful. 

“The theme is delayed, but not denied” Regina Jones said. “He graduated in 1976 but he didn’t get to walk with his class, but he’s not going to be denied because he’s going to walk today and he has classmates here as well.”

Originally, his wife wanted to hold it a few years ago but she said the timing just felt off, and then the pandemic happened. In 2023, she said that she felt in her heart it was the right time. 

Family donned Jones in a graduation cap and gown, much like the one he would have worn 47 years ago. In the end, diploma conferred, and tassel turned, Jones gave remarks of his own.

“This moment is one that I never thought would happen. Let me thank you for your patience. Please give me a little room here, I want to say something. I was so tearful. I don’t like to cry because when you get tearful, you make ugly faces,” Jones said.

Delayed but not denied, Jones said he was blessed to be surrounded by those who love him so much.

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