Sunday, June 24, 2018

You Will Be Missed - A Short Tribute to Hari Jones


As I sit here and type a few brief lines this morning, I have a bit of a heavy heart. Yesterday afternoon I saw on my Facebook feed that a friend, and historian had passed away. I first met Hari Jones at breakfast during a Civil War Trust Teacher's Institute. He spoke the previous evening in a general session and I was struck by the intellectual points he made. During our conversation over eggs and toast the following morning, I found that he was born in Oklahoma and had served our country in the Marine Corps. But, more than anything else I was impressed with his humility despite his powerful intellect.

When I made a job change in 2009, I had the opportunity to often travel to Washington D.C., for conferences, meetings, research, and personal reasons. When I could, I would take the yellow/green line Metro to U street and the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum (AACWMM), where Hari served as curator. During my early visits the museum was housed in a cramped space with seemingly limited reach. That did not seem to matter to Hari, as he shared his vast knowledge of the Civil War era and the United States Colored Troops with everyone that came in the door and who wanted to learn.

But, not only that! Hari was a source of encouragement in my career. While I was searching for work in early 2009, he had told me to keep up the faith and not get discouraged with the lack of opportunity in the field and to seek inspiration in those of the past that struggled but kept trying.

I wish I could have gotten to know Hari even better before he passed. He had left the AACWMM to do personal museum consulting work, which made it difficult to just drop in as I had before, but we sometimes communicated via email and Facebook. Last fall I had attempted to have him speak during our "Reflect and Respect" African American history weekend at work, but a scheduling conflict prevented it. Now more than ever I wish it would have worked out.

I can definitely say that the world is a better place for Hari's existence and that he will be dearly missed. His level of thinking, communicating, and research, along with his warm smile and kind voice cannot be replaced.

Here is a link to a podcast that Hari recently did for North Carolina Public Radio. Give it a listen and you, too, will realize what Hari means to the public history community.

Rest in Peace, Hari.

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