Another entertainment pioneer has departed.
Ike Jones, a pioneering African American filmmaker who was born Isaac Lolette Jones on December 23, 1929, in Santa Monica, died on October 11 at an assisted living facility, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Jones had a stroke several months ago and also suffered from congestive heart failure, said his friend Ann Stone. A series of bad investments pushed Jones from a house in Malibu to a rented room where he lived prior to his stroke.
A Los Angeles native and reportedly raised by his stepfather a pig farmer, Jones played high school football for Santa Monica High School and then UCLA. He turned down a draft offer to play for the Green Bay Packers because football was just a means to an end. Jones was real clear; he used football to put himself through college to study film. In so doing, Jones became the first African American to graduate from UCLA's prestigious film school.
Jones was determined to take Hollywood by storm. A 1952 article in Jet magazine said, "Handsome, personable, talented Isaac (Ike) Jones is determined to become the first Negro to crack the Hollywood motion picture industry from the production or executive ends."
He went to work for production companies that oversaw projects for Harry Belafonte and Burt Lancaster, and he headed Nat King Cole's Kell-Cole Productions that produced the singer's highly successful live shows. For the rest of his life, Jones kept a photo of himself and Cole at the White House with President Johnson.
In 1966 Jones was one of the producers of the film A Man Called Adam. Sammy Davis Jr. headed a cast that included Ossie Davis, Cicely Tyson, and Louis Armstrong. Jones said on several occasions that the movie marked the first time a black person produced an A-list picture.
Secretly married to Swedish-born actress Inger Stevens, the pair felt the need to keep the marriage secret to protect their careers. In 1970, Stevens died of an overdose in what was ruled a suicide.
Jones' last major producing credit was on the 1978 TV miniseries "A Woman Called Moses" (with Cicely Tyson as Harriet Tubman). However, Jones was an eternal optimist because even into his 80s, he reportedly was developing projects in hopes of a comeback.
Rest in peace, Ike Jones, rest in peace.
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