Bill Jones is known in the photography world as “Iconic.” He undoubtedly was friends with many celebrities, including Halle Berry, Snoop Dogg, Spike Lee, Jim Carrey, Denzel Washington and many others. His passing leaves happy memories for many people.
I remember when Bill had covered Nelson Mandela’s visit to the United States, just after he had been released from an African prison. Bill was there to capture that historical moment, just as I was with actor Sy Richardson. It was Bill who helped me cover that historical moment.
Bill Jones had a way with celebrities. They respected him. I met Bill in my early days of working as a television reporter with “Hollywood In Action,” a segment I produced on Saudi Arabian Television on KSCI, Channel 18. At that time Bill was working for Jet Magazine, Essence, Ebony, The Hollywood Gazette, Wave, L.A. Watts Times, and The Las Vegan Magazine among other other publications.
Bill would always take me with him to award shows such as the BET Awards (Black Entertainment Television) and the People’s Choice Awards among many others. When we finished taking pictures and interviewing, we would go to Rosco’s and have a bite. Bill always made it easy for me and ordered a hamburger. He was very humble and compassionate to everyone. Sometimes I would meet him at the lab in the early days when he would develop his film. As the years passed, we all went to the digital process. I left Los Angeles for Las Vegas to entertain and produce-host my own television shows there.
What I appreciated most about Bill Jones though, was his friendship. When I was living and entertaining in Vegas, I would arrive in Los Angeles and Bill would always let me stay over. He would also invite me to dinner and I would chat with his granddaughter Latoya, and other members of his family. In fact, there were times when money was tight and Bill would lend me money. No matter what level I was at, he was there for me. That was my relationship with Bill Jones.
A few years later in 1997, I learned that Bill was unconscious and in a coma after being hit over his head with a baseball bat. All because of a jealous neighbor.
That changed Bill’s life, especially after a few years of adjusting, when his wife Reva had passed in 2002. Miss Jones was a teacher and she so hospitable. Her talents as a teacher were excellent and she and Bill were a perfect couple in my eyes. But when she was no longer at Bill’s side it affected his life, becoming more difficult for him.
After six months of rehabilitation, having to relearn his speech patterns and undergo therapy from being paralyzed on the right side of his body, Bill’s perseverance got him to return to cover red carpet events, galas and award shows. Although he was much slower and had to use his left hand to position his 35mm Canon camera, his pictures came out picture perfect.
The assailant, Shai Alkebulan, who so hatefully almost killed Bill Jones, was sentenced to life in prison plus 13 years.
The last few times I saw Bill, he would always give me pictures that he took of me with other celebrities. He never changed and was always the same kind person regardless of how difficult life had become for him. I could see then, that Bill was much slower and was not in the best of health.
Bill Jones was born William Benjamin Jones in Ohio on October 4th, 1934. He graduated from Mansfield High School and attended Ohio State University. He left college for a while and joined the Airforce, becoming a sergeant, finally retiring after 22 years of service for our country.
Bill always had a keen mind, and received a sociology degree from California State University and worked as an accountant at Swinerton and Walberg. It was at this time in his life that he started taking pictures at numerous movie premieres. Ron Brewington, former chief for American Urban Radio Networks and Professor of Broadcasting at SMCC (Santa Monica City College) said Jones had been a mentor and friend to photographers and reporters.
“Bill’s spirit lives on through the many photographers and reporters he’s helped.” His historic pictures will be permanently displayed in the Museum of African American History and Culture this year, and The Hollywood Black Film Festival honored Bill with a retrospective exhibition.
Bill Jones is remembered for leading the way for black photographers and capturing those historic moments in African American History. He’s a friend who I miss every day.