Black Experience

Elderly Vietnam Veteran Earns Doctorate Degree

An 83-year-old man has proven it’s never too late to pursue one’s educational goals.

After dropping out of school in the sixth grade, Vietnam War veteran Johnnie Jones was awarded a doctorate degree from Louisiana State University this month.

But the Picayune, Miss., native won’t stop there, as he has already begun the admissions process to become an LSU law school student in the fall.

“Age is an artificial constraint. There’s nothing magical about 65, 75, 95, 105,” Jones told The Advocate, a Louisiana daily. “Your behavior, your activities should be guided by your physical fitness and your mental fitness. We’ve been so socialized to believe that once you hit a certain age, I’ve done my thing, so I’m going to sit back and enjoy life. OK, if that’s your thing, that’s your thing. But to me, age doesn’t mean that much. It’s whether or not I have the ability to be doing the things I need to be doing.”

Jones’ latest achievement was also historic after he became the eldest student to receive a graduate degree during LSU’s fall commencement and the oldest Black person to ever receive an LSU degree.

After retiring from the military in 1973, he earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Hawaii and went on to pursue his master’s degree at LSU.

All along, he worked at a restaurant and later as a warden at the Louisiana Department of Corrections to support his family.

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