Architect who painted for fun
By Bob Arnold
Robert Cook Jones was an architect by day and made woodblock prints and painted oils and watercolors as a pastime from the early 1960s through the 1970s before his death in 1980.
Born in 1904 to Robert Hill Jones and Adah Elizabeth Cook, he was a member of a prominent Crystal Springs pioneer family, the grandson of Rebert E. and Elizabeth McKey Jones on his father’s side and related to Fannye Cook on his mother’s side.
Jones attended Mississippi State University, graduated with a degree in architecture from Washington University in St. Louis and took classes in drawing, painting and clay sculpturing at St. Louis School of Fine Arts. After working at several private architectural firms in St. Louis, he returned to Mississippi where he worked for a few private firms and eventually was hired as an architect by Department of Education, designing and consulting on educational buildings.
At a tender age, Mrs. George Newton, Ora Newton Gibson and Dora Bennett Thompson nurtured his skills in the visual arts at Crystal Springs schools, and he studied for two years under Marie Hull.
He designed several buildings in Crystal Springs – the former Methodist parsonage next the church, several private home, the school superintendent’s home and the Consolidated School, now the high school. He was involved in the design of the administration building at Co-Lin and Fulton Chapel at the University of Mississippi. In Jackson, he assisted in designing Poindexter Elementary, Livingston Park bath house, Hawkins Field administration building, the Robert E. Lee Hotel, which became a state office building; the James O. Eastland Post Office and Federal Building and the War Memorial Building. He painted when he could find time during his architectural career, and started painting in earnest at his studio after his retirement in 1974, focusing on oils, watercolors and block prints of landscapes, scenic life and flowers – especially magnolias – that are treasured by locals for their downhome charm.
As a student in St. Louis, he won first prize for “St. Louis Levee 1840,” a watercolor, and won prizes in competition at the Mississippi State Fair when he returned to the state. He received other awards at the Holiday Inn Arts Festival in McComb, Mississippi Art shows in 1965 and 1967 and the Southwest Art Exhibition in 1970. His works were exhibited in Brookhaven, Oxford, the Jackson Municipal Art Gallery, Maynelle Gardens and multiple venues throughout Crystal Springs. Although he painted largely for fun, he also did commissions, some of which hang in the J.T. Biggs Memorial Library, the Rolling Hills Country Club, Crystal Springs City Hall and private collections. One of his most notable works was a commission for Crystal Springs City Hall which depicts a colorful East Railroad scene of vegetable shipping in its heyday.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Throughout the 2023 Copiah County Bicentennial year, Wesson News will feature sketches of past and present visual artists, musicians, authors and photographers who are natives of the county. They will be excerpted from Tricia Nelson’s reporting in A Shared History: Copiah County, Mississippi 1823-2023 edited and compiled by Paul C. Cartwright and available through Cartwright for $25 plus $5 for shipping at 3 Waverly Circle, Hattiesburg, MS 39402. Nelson is a Crystal Springs writer who contributes to the Copiah County Monitor.