The first episode
When most people think of the television series FAMILY MATTERS they recall Steve Urkel, Laura, Eddie, Carl, and Harriet. Mother Winslow, Richie, Aunt Rachel, Waldo, Myra, Three J, and Maxine also come to mind. Many viewers know that Jaimee Foxworth portrayed the youngest daughter, Judy, for a few years but may not be aware that she was not the first person in the role. I just watched the pilot episode of Family Matters, where Mother Winslow moves in after her husband dies. I was surprised to find that in this first show, there was a different girl portraying Judy. Family Matters had a 9-year run. First on ABC from September 22, 1989, to May 9, 1997. The final season was on CBS from September 19, 1997, to July 17, 1998. Family Matters is the second-longest-running non-animated sitcom in the United States with a predominantly African-American cast. The show is still popular today in syndication and can currently be seen often on the TVOne network as well as Hulu and Roku. The young lady in the role of Judy in the pilot episode was Valerie Jones, who is never mentioned in reunions or articles about this long-running series. Jones and Kelly Shanygne Williams played well off of each other as the Winslow sisters. Their sibling rivalry would have made for great entertainment and I wondered why Jones was replaced after the pilot episode.
The tale of two Judy's
FAMILY MATTERS was a spin-off of the ABC hit Perfect Strangers where Harriet Winslow was an elevator operator. Her family was developed and the new sitcom revolved around them all. In the pilot, as Carl and Harriet were adjusting to Mother Winslow moving in. their daughters were vying to spend time with little Richie. His mom, Harriet's sister Rachel was newly widowed and had recently moved into the Winslow home. Now Carl was apprehensive with his widowed mother was coming to live with his family as well. During that first show, Laura teased her younger sibling several times with the fact that she was old enough to hold baby Richie, while Judy was not. It looked like the beginning of fun sibling rivalry, but Valerie Jones was only in that one episode. When Foxworth took over the role of Judy, it was as if she was just there and did not have the chemistry with the other family members. Even mother Winslow fit right in from day one, but Judy always seemed the odd man out. She was in many scenes but not really involved in them. When she was written out, there was never any mention of her again and it was as if this member of the Winslow clan never existed. It looks like both Judy's got the shaft from the show.
Regarding the first Judy, there really is not a lot of information available. Valerie Jones was born in Tustin, California in 1982. After leaving FAMILY MATTERS, the actress appeared twice on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1990 and 1992. She also was in commercials for Trident Gum and Pepsi soft drink. I was unable to find any information on the Internet as to why Jones was replaced with Jamie Foxworth. It's been said that budget cuts were the reasons Foxworth was fired, but over the years the show added many new characters such as Three J, and young Richie's role was expanded in the final seasons. Steve Urkel, the most popular character on the sitcom showed up in the middle of the first season. His role was supposed to be only for one episode so perhaps Judy was sacrificed for Urkel.
In 1990, Valerie Jones portrayed a character named Lisa who was a Christmas caroler in the episode titled Deck the Halls, on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In 1992 she returned to the sitcom and played the role of a young Hilary Banks in the episode WIll gets committed. There is nothing else related to the actress online except images of her wedding to Donna Hay in 2016. It looks like Jones has left the world of acting behind her. We will never know where her talents might have taken her. She will, however, always be remembered as the first Judy Winslow on Family Matters.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Cheryl E Preston