Calvin Jones, Prominent Physician and Benefactor of What is Now Wake Forest University

On April 2, 1775, Calvin Jones was born in Massachusetts.  A benefactor of what is now Wake Forest University, he made contributions to medicine, public health, military strategy, and public education in North Carolina.  Jones was a founder of the North Carolina Medical Society, major-general in the War of 1812, and Grand Master of the Masonic Order in North Carolina. He was for 30 years a trustee of the University of North Carolina.

By the time he moved to North Carolina in 1795 Jones was a practicing physician with a published article on scarlet fever.  At the age of twenty-five, in a groundbreaking series of newspaper editorials, Jones began urging the people of North Carolina to understand the vital importance of the smallpox vaccine that had just been developed in Europe. So innovative was Jones that he was practicing the inoculation for smallpox before the experiments of its discoverer (Dr. Edward Jenner) were completed in England.

In 1808 Jones became concerned with the ongoing conflict with Britain.  He achieved the rank of North Carolina’s Adjutant General, serving as the state’s chief military officer. During the War of 1812, he accepted a commission to command the 7th North Carolina Division of Militia, that in 1813 protected the state by preventing a British fleet of approximately 150 warships and vessels from invading the coast.  

Jones moved to northern Wake County in 1821.  During this time, his primary interest was the surgical treatment of eye ailments. Ophthalmology was a new medical specialty, and he developed a considerable regional reputation as an eye surgeon with a focus on the practical application of surgical techniques to improve vision.

Jones was involved in the creation of the Wake Forest Academy (1823), the Wake Forest School (1831), and the Wake Forest Female School (1831).  Jones then sold his property to the North Carolina Baptist Convention (1832), paving the way for the founding of the Wake Forest Manual Labor Institute (1834) later to become Wake Forest College (1838), now Wake Forest University (1967). In fact, Jones is the man who coined the name “Wake Forest” by altering the existing regional term of “the Forest of Wake.”  Jones’ restored Wake Forest home is now part of the Wake Forest Historical Museum complex.