“She has a rich, vibrant voice . . . One of those personalities that go zinging over the footlights.”
— The New York Times
It takes a rare combination of natural talent, hard work, and a little bit of luck to go from singing as a hobby to becoming an international star in just a few short years, especially at the age of 41. However, that’s exactly what opera singer and Wilton resident Betty Jones did, when in 1971, she started singing professionally for the first time. Betty spent the next three decades delighting crowds across the globe, but always found time to give back to the community that helped launch her career.
Celebrating Black History Month, an entire month dedicated to remembering the achievements, contributions, resilience, and legacies of Black Americans, the Wilton Historical Society dedicated an episode of its popular video series “History is Here” to the opera star. It is now available as of Feb. 24 for viewing on the organization’s website and YouTube channel.
The Wilton Historical Society has been producing the video series since April 2020 in an effort to tell the stories of the town’s history. On the current episode of History is Here, Associate Curator Nick Foster had an opportunity to speak with Betty’s husband Eugene “Doug” Jones and daughter Janet Shipp to discuss the remarkable life of the opera star. They shared their thoughts on Betty’s love of music, the hours spent at the Wilton Playshop, as well as being the first African American couple to buy a home in Wilton in 1954.