Lessons Learned From My Father: Howard C. Gentry, Jr. and Howard E. Jones, Jr.

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HOWARD C. GENTRY, JR.

Written by Phyllis Qualls & Terri Woodmore

NASHVILLE, TN — Howard  C. Gentry Jr. walks the trail his father blazed.  Howard Gentry Sr. had a strong work ethic, believed in education, and truly loved his family, his church, his friends, and his community. He also showed love and concern for all who were sent his way, as his widow, Mrs. Carrie Gentry records in her book about him, “ A Life Worth Living; A Biography of Howard C. Gentry, Sr.”

Those qualities and much more are the basis of the lessons Howard Gentry Jr. learned from his father.  Gentry, Jr. was born and reared in Nashville, and basically grew up on the Tennessee State University campus.  Although Mr. Gentry, Sr. was born in Columbus, Ohio, his career path led him to Tennessee State University in 1949, with his wife and their six-month-old daughter. Howard Jr. came later.  He worked at TSU for 27 years, until his retirement, holding several positions that included instructor of health and physical education, assistant football coach, head of the intramural program, head football coach, and ultimately athletics director, a positon he held for 15 years.  During those times, Howard Gentry, Jr., was a mainstay on the campus, where both his parents worked.

“My father was driven for success.  He proudly infused leadership thought, physical prowess, and spiritual teachings in everything he did as a coach and athletics director.  He believed in togetherness.  Now it is called ‘networking.’”

Gentry Jr. continued, “While he was head football coach at TSU, each year before preseason practices would begin, it was a tradition for the team to gather at our home and we would have fellowship and food. My mother calls it a ‘weenie roast,’ and she should know because she cooked.

“I watched how my Dad would share meaningful life lessons with the team, even laugh and joke, but on the field, he was a stern disciplinarian.  For me, that was a lesson in how to be firm, even tough, and yet still be a caring human being.”

Mr. Gentry Sr., was a formidable, success-oriented individual.  He did not know nor concede to  disappointment or failure.  Even in a rare loss as coach, he would find a way to show the winning side of the experience and grow from that, such as when a player had record blocks or catches.

Howard Gentry Jr. says, “From that successful perspective, I learned to never give up, to keep trying, and focus on the goal, not the mishaps nor the mistakes.”

Mr. Gentry Sr., also had a strong servant attitude.  He was relentless about helping others, whether students, co-workers, church members, or sometimes strangers.  He was giving.

“I learned how important serving is from my dad.  He had a willing spirit and a big heart.  My involvement in politics came from my dad’s serving spirit.  I have been successful in serving the citizens of Nashville-Davidson County in various positions: Metro Council –at-Large, Vice Mayor, and currently Criminal Court Clerk.  A significant lesson I have learned is that it is not a sacrifice to serve the public, it is an honor.”

In closing, Gentry Jr., said, “I loved my dad and I am a better person because of him.”

 

HOWARD E. JONES, JR.

NASHVILLE, TN — Howard E. Jones Sr. was a staunch businessman; a man of wisdom and vision.  At home and in business, it was always about work.  He was a man who worked tirelessly and spoke directly.  Mr. Jones, Sr. illuminated the path for Howard Jones Jr. to walk.

“Born in 1937, my father and mother married at a young age; he was 18 and she was 16,” said Jones Jr.  To that union, five children were born and we all worked…and hard.

“I learned many lessons from my father; a strong work ethic, a commitment to family, being respectful and considerate of others and an undeniable quest to reach beyond myself to help others for the good of community, and to speak up and tell the truth.  He would not accept any lackluster attitude from me or anyone else around him”

Mr. Jones Sr. and his wife, Barbara, owned a store in East Nashville and taught their children to work hard.  “Dad would say, do for yourself—you can work now and play later or you can play now and you will work later.”  Mr. Jones Sr., was a man who felt you should honor your word and be productive.

“Once during my teenage years, I had hung out with friends and arrived home in the early morning hours.   That morning was my scheduled workday at the store.   When it came time for the store to open, my Mom and Dad woke me up and said, ‘it’s time to go to work!’”  There was no mercy and no leniency.

Mr. Jones Sr. helped so many people throughout his lifetime.  He was a giving person and was strong in his convictions.  Many will say it was in his DNA.

He had a gift of discernment and would identify people for their gifts or misgivings.   He knew it, understood it, and shared with the individuals; it was that attitude that helped to change their lives for the ‘good’ they would achieve.”  From those experiences, I learned how important it is to get to know people and help them in their life’s purpose.  As a sociology major at TSU, and a Pastor, I understand discernment and how important it is to help individuals achieve more than their goals, but their God-given purpose.”

Mr. Jones Sr. worked as a custodian at the Davidson County Courthouse and interacted with police, bailiffs, judges and many others on a daily basis. “My Dad encouraged Officer Wyatt to pursue his dreams and that he should look beyond being a police officer. He did and now Judge Randall Wyatt credits my Dad for inspiring him to seek his dreams.”

That lesson is one of great significance Jones Jr. learned from his Dad. “When people who care about you can see your gifts more clearly than you, then you (me) should listen and heed their advice. “That is what Judge Wyatt did because of my father’s concern for him,” said Jones Jr.  He also said he learned numerous lessons from his Dad.  “It is important to stand up and be strong, forthright, determined; it is also equally important to be caring, giving and concerned about the welfare of others.”

When we opened Kingdom Café & Grill a year ago, a ministry of Fairfield M. B. Church, where I have pastored for nearly 30 years, so many people have come to me and said “Your Dad would be proud of you.  Their comments include statements such as, “You are standing up and mixing entrepreneurship with service for the Lord, demonstrating a strong work ethic and doing it yourself…no handouts, which is what your Father believed.  My heart is moved by those remarks.”

With those kinds of memories, Jones Jr. says, “I have taken a leap of faith, with lessons from my Dad, in my quest to seek the State Senate-District 19 seat; it is those lessons from my Dad that inspire me.   With my Dad’s spirit, it is clear, “I have been running all the time and willing to serve for such a time as this.”

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