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Bonnie Brown: Q&A with Former Admissions Clerk, Billie Vines Jones

*The latest installment in the Ole Miss Retirees features is former Admissions Clerk Billie Vines Jones. The organization’s mission is to enable all of the university’s faculty and staff retirees to maintain and promote a close association with the university. It is the goal of the Ole Miss Faculty/Staff Retirees Association to maintain communication by providing opportunities to attend and participate in events and presentations.

I have known Billie Vines Jones for many years. She is a smart, talented woman who worked in several different jobs on campus and brought her kindness and professionalism to each position. I love her joyful laugh and her easy-going spirit. Billie is charming, well respected and loved by all, most especially her lovely family.

Billie Vines Jones (right) said she entered Ole Miss in the summer of 1962 after graduating from high school. Photo submitted.

Brown: You are a native of Oxford, Mississippi. Please talk about your childhood and family.

Jones: I guess you could say I’m a native of Oxford, but actually I was born in the West Texas town of Lamesa on May 4, 1944. My father passed away when I was 18 months old and when my brother, James, finished high school in 1946 Mother, Mary Belle Vines, moved the three of us to Mississippi so her mother could take care of me while she worked. I remember that she got a job at the Golden Rule on the Square but most of my memories of her work place are of Carl Coers on campus. She was a seamstress and altered clothes for the store until she retired somewhere around 1967 or 1968. I loved going to Carl Coers Clothing Store and when I was old enough, I even worked there during Christmas holidays helping take inventory. I went to elementary school when it was on Jackson Avenue, just off the Square where the Federal Building is now. My seventh grade started at University High School on University Avenue and I graduated from high school there in 1962.

Brown: Tell us about your Ole Miss Story. When and why did you begin working at Ole Miss? How many years did you work at Ole Miss?

Jones: After graduation from high school I entered Ole Miss in the summer of 1962. I got a part time job in the Library working for Miss Annie Elizabeth Mills (a family friend) in the Documents Department. I worked there through the fall semester and decided I didn’t want to go to school. In January of 1963 I got a job in Admissions in the Registrar’s Office in the Lyceum. Dr. Robert B. Ellis was the Registrar at the time. I eventually moved over to the Records side of the office and worked there until the summer of 1976. I decided I wanted to be a housewife so I quit work but took temp jobs now and then. In the fall of 1977, a temp job in Educational Research in the Education Building, working for Dr. Bob Cage became available. That worked into a full time job and I worked for him until he left the University sometime around 1987 or 1988. I continued working in the School of Education in several different offices until I transferred to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. Dr. Ray Hoops was the Vice Chancellor. All in all, counting the temp jobs I had, my years in the retirement system were approximately 33 years when I retired in 1997. After retirement, I continued to work temp jobs, the last one, and one which was very enjoyable, was in Student Employment working for Vicky Johnson during the busy season at the beginning of each semester.

Brown: What positions did you hold? What were some of your responsibilities?

Jones: As an Admissions Clerk, I processed freshman applications and wrote their acceptance letters. After moving over to the Records side of the office I interacted with students, faculty and staff, opened and sorted the mail, and helped file record cards. In Education, my duties included working at the front desk in Educational Research as a receptionist, typing for Dr. Cage, interacting with graduate students, and filing. When I transferred to Dr. Hoops’ office I worked directly for him as Executive Secretary. Some of my duties included typing, filing, making appointments, and keeping his calendar. One of my duties included sending out letters for Dr. Noyes to members of Friends of the Library. I also did letters for the Chancellor’s office.

Brown: Ole Miss has undergone many changes during the years you worked there. Is there something that stands out in your memory as significant? If so, why?

Jones: The age of technology emerged while I was working in Admissions and the Registrar’s Office. I learned to make the packets of cards for registration before everything was computerized. While I worked in Educational Research, I learned how to use a computer (one of the first ones that had the keyboard attached to it) with a graduate student sitting beside me telling me which keys to hit. I feel so blessed that I was in a place where I could learn so much and keep up with technology. Also, the campus has grown by leaps and bounds, in enrollment and the number of buildings.

Brown: What advice would you give to a young woman about to enter the work force?

Jones: I would tell a young woman to follow her heart, with or without a college degree, and put all she has into making a job more than just a job, make it a career.

Brown: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

Granddaughters Maegan Russell DePriest, Danni Russell Horton, Blair Hunt Pruitt, LeeAnna Hunt Smith, and Mary Micah Hunt. Photo submitted. 

Jones: My greatest accomplishment is nothing to do with my work at Ole Miss—that would be my family. I married my high school sweetheart, Joe Downs, in 1964 and our first daughter was born in 1966. In the fall of 1969 I found out I was expecting another baby and we were so excited. Sadly Joe died in a hunting accident in January and never got to see his second little girl. I later married Jimmy Jones and he was a great father to my girls. Our little family of four grew to six when the girls married. They added five granddaughters, and now there are four grandsons-in-law, and seven great-grandchildren, four girls and three boys. I have been very blessed!

Brown: I know that your grandchildren call you “Bibi.” Tell us about that name.

Daughter Keri Downs Hunt, Billie Jones, and daughter Kellye Downs Russell. Photo submitted.

Jones: When I was young (around 10 years old) our neighbors had a little boy who called me Bibi. When my first granddaughter was born I thought I was too young to be called Granny or Grandma or whatever so I told my daughter I wanted to be called Bibi. The name stuck and all the granddaughters and great-grandchildren continue to call me that, with the exception of one or two who sometimes shorten my name to Bibs! I feel honored that friends of my granddaughters and great-grandchildren also call me Bibi!

Brown: What are your hobbies? What are you passionate about?

Jones: No real hobbies but I’m involved in my church which include Sunday School, Church services and activities including Bible Study, Puppet Workshop, and just recently started helping prepare for Wednesday evening supper. Once a month some of my high school girl friends and I get together for lunch and I go to a Senior Luncheon at the hospital once a month. (Sounds like I eat a lot!)

Brown: What, if anything, remains on your “bucket list?”

Jones: I don’t think I’ve ever really had a bucket list. Travel has always been one of my favorite things to do and before Jim passed away we traveled a couple times a year. One of my favorite trips was a month long trip to Germany when my daughter and her family lived there. My son-in-law was in the Air Force and they were able to take some time off to show us the beautiful countryside, castles, and a day trip down the Rhine River. I never dreamed that I would be able to travel out of the United States!

Brown: Please talk about your “new” routine when you retired.

Jones: When I first retired I did a lot of yard work to help Jim out as he didn’t retire until a year after I did. When the grandchildren started coming along I did some babysitting. I had moved my Mother in with us by then and she enjoyed having the girls around. We eventually built a house a few miles East of Abbeville and Jim had two large gardens. I kept busy processing the vegetables he picked and brought to the house.

Brown: Tell us something about Billie Vines that not many people know.

Jones: I’m pretty much an open book. I can’t think of anything folks wouldn’t already know about me.

Brown: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?

Jones: My years working at Ole Miss taught me so much and put me in a place where I had contact with so many wonderful people–administration, faculty, staff, and students. I will always be grateful to those who took a chance and hired me as a young woman.


Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.

For questions or comments, email hottytoddynews@gmail.com.

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