Longtime Community Leader Dead at 77

A well known East Texan has died. Johnnie Jones died Wednesday morning after a long battle with an illness. He was 77 years old.

Jones was a longtime community leader and the first  African-American soldier to hold the rank of sergeant major in the U.S. Army.

Millard Smith, Jones' relative, said, "My mother had problems with child birth and Johnnie and Letha, my godparents, took me home that day and from that second on, they were close as any blood parents could be, so I've been blessed to have two [sets of parents]."

Jones' friend, Freddie Gibson, said, "He was a very diligent person. He would do anything to help anybody and he just helped a lot of people and he helped me. I grew up with him."

Funeral services for Johnnie Jones are set for Saturday in Lufkin. Arrangements are still being made.