Leander C. Jones obituary

contact: Jeanne Baron
| WMU News
Photo of Leander C. Jones.

Leander C. Jones

Dr. Leander C. Jones, emeritus professor of Africana Studies at Western Michigan University and a member of the local theatre community, died July 2. He was 81.

Jones joined the WMU faculty in 1974 and retired in 2003 after more than 29 years of service to the University.

He was a former chair of the Africana studies program whose teaching and research focused on African-American literature as well as television and theatre production. He often provided expert commentary on black issues as well as opinion pieces for area news media.

Leander C. Jones

Jones was born in Arkansas and served two years in the Army before moving to Chicago and marrying the late Lethonee A. Hendricks, a WMU associate professor emerita of social work, in 1963. A year later, the two were among the earliest Peace Corps volunteers to serve in Somalia.

During his early career, Jones was employed in various positions, including as a high school teacher from 1956 to1968, producer with the public TV station at City Colleges of Chicago from 1968 to 1973, and communications media specialist and grant writer at Meharry Medical College from 1973 to 1975.

His scholarly work primarily resulted in television and theatrical productions, and included pieces on the black experience in the United States as well as numerous TV documentaries in such wide-ranging fields as history, literature, urban studies and geography.

Jones founded the Imani Ujima theatre company and often acted in plays produced by the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre and other local companies. He also co-founded and served as vice president and president of the Black Civic Theatre.

In addition, Jones was involved with the city's Community Access Center, for which he did an issues-oriented community affairs TV program titled "Fade to Black." He was a 50-year member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and worked for human rights both on and off campus through membership in the NAACP and area and national campaigns, including the effort to eliminate apartheid in South Africa.

Jones earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in 1956; a master's degree from the University of Illinois in 1968; and a doctoral degree from the Union Institute and University in 1973.

Visitation and services

Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, July 8, in Allen Chapel AME Church, 804 W. North St. in Kalamazoo. A Kappa Alpha Psi fraternal service is set for 6:30 p.m.

The memorial service will be held at noon Saturday, July 9, in Allen Chapel AME Church.


The family obituary and a personalized tributes page are available at harperfuneral.com.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the United Negro College Fund.