By Marjory J. Sente

Fred Bert Jones served in WWI, and his daughter Helen volunteered during WWII. These local patriotic African-Americans served in the United States’ military to make the world safe for freedom, despite the segregation and lack of freedom they encountered in their own country. 

When Fred Jones joined the army, he lived in Winslow working as a carpenter for the Santa Fe Railroad. However, he enlisted in Lawrence, Kansas, where his family lived. Jones was a member of Company L of the 805th Pioneer Infantry, an all colored unit, composed of men mostly from the Kansas City area.

The unit reached France in September, 1918, and was part of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in northeastern France, working behind the lines maintaining the railhead and doing road work at Aubreville. At Varennes they worked on the platform at the railhead; at Charpentary they did roadwork. After the Armistice was signed on November 11, the Company was assigned to salvage work at Cunel.  

Jones’ letter to a friend in Winslow was published in the December 14, 1918, Phoenix Tribune, reporting that he was with the American Expeditionary Forces serving in France and fondly remembering spending a Thanksgiving Day at the Grand Canyon eating crackers and bacon.

Jones was in France until June 17, 1919, when he returned to the United States in the U.S.S. Zeppelin. Company L arrived in Hoboken, N.J. on June 27 and was transferred to Camp Upton and then to Camp Funston, Kansas, where the men were discharged. Afterward, Jones spent time visiting family in Kansas. By 1920 he was living in Prescott. Rejoining the Santa Fe Railroad, he worked as a carpenter at its Prescott shops. 

The May 6, 1922, Phoenix Tribune reported that Fred Jones and Inez Martlock were married at the Catholic Church in Prescott. Inez had migrated from Kingston, Jamaica, two years prior and worked as a domestic for Francis S. Geary in Phoenix before moving to Prescott.

Helen Chaney Jones, their first child, was born on July 16, 1923. Helen, along with her three siblings, grew up in Prescott. During her senior year at Prescott High School, Helen was on the staff of the school newspaper, The Badger.  She graduated in 1941 and worked in the beauty industry.

When Helen enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) on October 2, 1943,  she followed in the footsteps of her father. Like her father, Helen was placed in an all colored unit. The colored WACs had separate living quarters, mess, entertainment and times to use the swimming pool. 

Helen was discharged on December 26, 1945. The January 3, 1946, Prescott Evening Courier announced her honorable discharge, noting that Helen was awarded the Good Conduct medal, the WWII Victory medal and the American Campaign medal. At the time of her discharge, Helen was a PFC in the 9201 Technical Services Unit, an administrative unit located at the New York Point of Embarkation.  

In 1948, well after the close of WWII, President Truman announced Executive Order 9981 directing the military to end segregation. The first article stated, “There shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.”          

Helen never returned to Prescott but settled in Los Angeles. Her mother died on January 12, 1947, and is buried in Prescott’s IOOF Cemetery. Sometime after 1950, Fred moved to Los Angeles. He passed away on May 2, 1957. Helen never married and died on June 15, 1992. Her name is among those of 568 veterans from Yavapai County that are on the Yavapai County WWII Veterans Memorial located in Prescott’s Courthouse Plaza. 

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International ( This and other Days Past articles are also available at The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to Please contact SHM Research Center reference desk at 928-277-2003, or via email at for information or assistance with photo requests