Today the College of Law will launch the Nathaniel R. Jones Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice. The new name for the Center signifies the College’s commitment to and alignment with the principles of United States Court of Appeals Judge Nathaniel R. Jones’ impressive career as a champion for justice. The event will take place at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the Robert S. Marx Law Library will present items from the Papers of Judge Nathaniel R. Jones, curated by Library Associate, Rhonda Wiseman.
The Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones has distinguished himself as a lawyer, jurist, academic, public servant and renowned defender of social justice. He was born in Youngstown, Ohio, and served with the U.S. Air Force during World War II. After the war, he pursued his education at Youngstown State University, receiving his A.B. in 1951 and his LL.B. in 1956. Judge Jones was admitted to the bar in 1957.
In addition to private practice, Judge Jones has also served as Executive Director of the Fair Employment Practices Commission and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland. He held that position until his 1967 appointment as Assistant General Counsel to President Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission). Following his term with the Kerner Commission.
In 1969 he was asked to serve as general counsel of the NAACP by executive director Roy Wilkins. For the next ten years Judge Jones directed all NAACP litigation. In addition to personally arguing several cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, he coordinated national efforts to end northern school segregation, to defend affirmative action, to inquire into discrimination against black servicemen in the U.S. military, and successfully coordinated the NAACP’s defense on First Amendment grounds in the Mississippi Boycott case.
On May 17, 1979, President Carter nominated Judge Jones to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Judge Jones took his oath of office on October 15 of that year and served in that position for over two decades. In 2003 the United States Congress passed H.J. Res. 2 naming the Nathaniel R. Jones Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Youngstown, Ohio in honor of his accomplishments.
Judge Jones has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the NAACP 101st Spingarn Medal, 2016 International Freedom Conductor Award, Children’s Defense Fund’s Changing the Odds Award, the Charles Hamilton Houston Medallion of Merit from the Washington Bar Association, induction into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame, The American Lawyer’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Just The Beginning Foundation’s Trailblazer Award, the Annual Fellows Award from the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division, the Award of Excellence from the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, the Ohio Bar Medal Award from the Ohio State Bar Association, and he was inducted into the National Bar Association Hall of Fame. He was named a “Great Living Cincinnatian” in 1997.
Judge Jones’ distinguished record of community and academic service includes teaching at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, North Carolina Central University College of Law, and Harvard Law School. His efforts in civil and human rights have taken him to countries around the globe, and in 1993 he served on the team of observers for the first democratic elections in South Africa. Judge Jones is also a member of the advisory board of the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights.
Judge Jones selected the Robert S. Marx Law Library as the repository for his personal and professional papers and other historical materials. This donated, personal collection of papers document his impressive legal career and contributions to pursuing justice and equality on a global scale. Items in the collection include the Nomination Reference and Report used by the Committee on the Judiciary for Judge Jones’ nomination to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, materials commemorating his appointment to the United States bench on the 25th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, pieces detailing his support of democracy in the South African movement of the late nineteen seventies and early eighties; as well as speeches, photographs and various other items. You can find out more about the Papers of Judge Nathanial R. Jones and other collections by visiting the website of the Robert S. Marx Law Library Archives.
Blog post created with contributions by Rhonda Wiseman.