Born in 1928, Loyal Jones grew up on a mountain farm in western North Carolina. He graduated from Hayesville North Carolina High School in 1945. One of eight children, Jones' family were farmers living on rented land. He served a brief stint in the Navy after high school, and then worked as a farmer and horse trainer before enrolling as an undergraduate at Berea College. Jones earned an undergraduate degree at Berea College in 1954, and received his master’s of education from the University of North Carolina in 1961.
jBefore coming to Berea College as director of the Appalachian Center, Jones served two years in the United States Army as teacher and educational specialist; was a teacher in Jefferson County, Kentucky, public schools; and was Associate Executive Director and later Executive Director of the Council of the Southern Mountains in Berea. Jones served as Director of the Appalachian Center at Berea College from 1970-1993 where he taught Appalachian Studies. Most recently, in 2008, the Berea College Board of Trustees passed a resolution to rename the Appalachian Center at Berea College the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center in recognition of his distinguished career and notable accomplishments as the Center’s founding director.
Loyal Jones also established an annual festival of traditional music and the AppalachianSound Archive of music, stories and interviews. He and Billy Edd Wheeler ran festivals of Appalachian humor at Berea College and co-edited four collections of humorous stories. He has published numerous other articles and books