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Jones program set for showing

May 2, 2013
By DAVE GOSSETT - Staff writer (dgossett@heraldstaronline.com) , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - The tears started immediately as Patti West shared the latest chapter of her Uncle Calvin Jones' story.

"This is so emotional for me because I always wondered why our family wasn't told about Calvin's son. He never knew he had a son. Then I found out last month the grandmother of Edwin Harrison I, Calvin's son, had sent a letter to Calvin in care of my grandmother telling him he was a father of a baby boy. And she had included a photo of the baby. She mailed the letter in September 1956 to Calvin Jack Jones at 939 Sherman Ave. to tell Calvin he had a son born on Aug. 26, 1956. But my grandmother had moved to Riverview Avenue and the letter wasn't forwarded. By September Calvin was back in Canada playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League," related West.

Jones died in a plane crash in Canada in December 1956.

Article Photos

JONES STORY — Patti West talks about a return to sender letter her Uncle Calvin Jones never received in 1956. If Jones had received the letter he would have learned he was the father of a baby boy. -- Dave Gossett

"So the letter was returned to Texas and Calvin never knew he had a son. Edwin's mother, Sandra, was going through her mother's things when she found a bag containing the letter sent 57 years ago but returned as undeliverable," continued West.

"Sandra called me in April and asked if I was sitting down. That's when she told me about this letter, and I started crying. Knowing Calvin as I did, I know he would have taken full responsibility for his son and would have shared him with everyone," said West.

"I am happy and delighted this all came about at this time. I truly believe God always has a plan. I'm still here to help with the history. My family is all gone now but I am still here to be the heir of Calvin's accomplishments," West said.

West plans to show the documentary, "The Crash" a final time at noon Saturday in the Steubenville High School auditorium.

The movie is free and open to the public.

"I wanted to show the documentary again because the weather was so bad in December when we showed the film," according to West.

The film details the life of the young man who played sports at Steubenville High School and then joined his two best friends from high school at the University of Iowa for an outstanding college football career.

Jones, a 1952 graduate of Steubenville High School, was killed in a plane crash on Dec. 9, 1956, over the Canadian Rocky Mountains while playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers following a stellar career at the University of Iowa.

He left behind family members in Steubenville and a 4-month-old son in Houston.

"We had no idea Calvin had a son in Texas until a year ago. Sandra was his girlfriend while he was at the University of Iowa. She was the daughter of a Methodist minister in Houston, who, along with his wife, adopted Edwin Harrison I and raised him as their own son. You know what it was like in the 1950s when a girl got pregnant. It wasn't until he was in the fourth grade when he started questioning why his parents were so much older than his classmates' parents," Patti West related.

"His mother waited until after her parents died 10 years ago to contact Steubenville High School to find any relatives of Calvin Jones. I was involved at the high school and they told her I was Calvin's niece and that's when we first made contact," continued West.

She assisted Paul Cowan of Infield Fly Productions of Montreal in finding local residents who knew her uncle when he grew up in Steubenville.

Cowan united Jones' son Edwin Harrison I and his son Edwin "Boomer" Harrison II with their Steubenville relatives when they flew into the Pittsburgh International Airport last year.

"It is neat to see Calvin's grandson following in his grandfather's footsteps and playing in the Canadian Football League. I give all credit to God for allowing us to come together and to meet my cousin and his son," West added.

"This film is unique. It is a look at Calvin Jones the football player and also at his family, both in Houston and in Steubenville. It was very moving to see the two families meet face to face for the first time," related Cowan.

Jones was elected the University of Iowa team captain his senior year and was awarded the Outland Trophy as the nation's top college lineman. He was the first African-American to be pictured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, appearing on the front of the Sept. 27, 1954, edition.

According to Cowan, Jones declined offers to play in the National Football League because of lower wages for African-American professional football players and joined the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL.

Jones quickly made a name for himself in the league and was chosen to play in the Canadian League All-Star game in Vancouver, B.C., Dec. 8, 1956, one day before he died.

"I never saw my grandmother smile or laugh after Calvin died. He was her youngest son and she loved him and was so proud of him. She would have loved to meet Calvin's son and his grandson," cited West.

"We will always be proud of the legacy Calvin left behind. He helped put Steubenville on the map.

"I will be forever grateful to Sandra for contacting the high school and then sharing Edwin with us as well as his son. And now she has completed the final chapter by telling us about the letter that was never delivered to Calvin," said West.

 
 

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