Jones died in Atlanta on Tuesday after a brief illness, University of Alabama spokeswoman Angie Estes said. The university established an art collection in Jones' name after receiving some 1,700 pieces valued at $5 million in 2008.
Despite humble beginnings and never being independently wealthy, Jones began buying pieces in the 1960s after noting African-American art was underrepresented in public galleries.
As the drawings, paintings, photographs, sculptures and other works grew into the hundreds, part of his collection was exhibited at the University of Delaware in 1993. He later made a gift of several hundred works to the school.
"My goal has been to incorporate African-American art into American art," he said in 2008.
Born in Bessemer, Ala., he attended historically black Alabama State University in Montgomery and finished his education at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
He worked with an interracial community group in Birmingham, Ala., and held jobs with the federal government for 15 years before becoming deputy director of the Peace Corps based in Thailand.
Survivors include his son, P.R. Jones of California, according to the University of Alabama- AP