Nathaniel R. Jones

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Nathaniel Jones
Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
In office
May 13, 1995 – March 30, 2002
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
In office
October 5, 1979 – May 13, 1995
Appointed byJimmy Carter
Preceded byJohn Weld Peck II
Succeeded byR. Guy Cole Jr.
Personal details
Nathaniel Raphael Jones

(1926-05-12) May 12, 1926 (age 92)
Youngstown, Ohio
EducationYoungstown State University (A.B., LL.B.)

Nathaniel Raphael Jones (born May 12, 1926) has served as a lawyer, jurist, academic, and public servant and is currently an attorney in private practice. He was a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit before his retirement in March 2002.[1] As general counsel of the NAACP, he gained recognition for his legal efforts to end school segregation in the northern United States.[1]

Early years[edit]

Jones was born in the Smoky Hollow district of Youngstown, Ohio, several blocks from a federal courthouse that now bears his name.[1] He served with the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. After the war, he pursued his education at Youngstown State University, receiving his Artium Baccalaureus degree in 1951 and his Bachelor of Laws in 1956. Jones was admitted to the bar in 1957.[2]

Legal career[edit]

After four years in private practice, Jones served as Executive Director of the Fair Employment Practices Commission. In 1962, he became the first African American to be appointed as Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland.[1] He held that position until his 1967 appointment as Assistant General Counsel to President Lyndon B. Johnson's National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission).[1] Following his term with the Kerner Commission, Jones returned to private practice with the firm of Goldberg & Jones in Youngstown.[3]

In 1969, he was asked to serve as general counsel of the NAACP by executive director Roy Wilkins.[1] The following year, Jones was honored by more than 600 dignitaries at an NAACP recognition banquet held in Youngstown. In a keynote address, he described the situation of African Americans in the following terms: "We still live in the basement of the great society. We must keep plodding until we get what we are striving for".[4] For the next nine years, Jones directed all NAACP litigation. In addition to personally arguing several cases in the United States Supreme Court, he coordinated national efforts to end northern school segregation, to defend affirmative action, and to inquire into discrimination against black servicemen in the United States military. He also successfully coordinated the NAACP's defense on First Amendment grounds in the Mississippi Boycott case.[5]

Judicial career and beyond[edit]

Jones was nominated by President Jimmy Carter on August 28, 1979, to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit vacated by Judge John Weld Peck II. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on October 4, 1979, and received his commission on October 5, 1979. He took his judicial oath on October 15, 1979. He assumed senior status on May 13, 1995. His service terminated on March 30, 2002, due to retirement.[3]

Jones is now employed as Senior Counsel in the Cincinnati office of Blank Rome LLP and remains active as of April 2018.[6]

Jones' record of community and academic service includes teaching at Harvard Law School. His efforts in civil and human rights have taken him to countries around the world, and in 1993, he served on the team of observers for the first democratic elections in South Africa.[7] On May 6, 2003, the second federal courthouse established in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio was named in honor of Jones.[8] Former U.S. Representative Louis B. Stokes of Cleveland was on hand for the naming ceremony. "This building, which will forever carry your name, will be a testament to outstanding public service by a local boy made good", Stokes said.[8] Jones received the NAACP's Spingarn Medal in 2016.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Jones was married to the late Lillian Graham Jones (née Hawthorne) and has five children: Stephanie J. Jones, William L. Hawthorne, Ricky B. Hawthorne, Marc D. Hawthorne, and Pamela L. Velez. Jones is a Prince Hall Freemason[10] and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Skolnick, David (April 13, 2003). "Retired Judge Jones reminisces as naming of courthouse nears". The Vindicator. p. B-5.
  2. ^ "Atty. Jones to Address YSU Class of '70, Get Doctorate". The Youngstown Vindicator. June 7, 1970.
  3. ^ a b Nathaniel Raphael Jones at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  4. ^ Sheehan, Pete (April 25, 1970). "600 Hail NAACP Chief Counsel: Banquet Honors Nate Jones". The Youngstown Vindicator.
  5. ^ University of Cincinnati College of Law “The Papers of Judge Nathaniel R. Jones/Biographical Sketch, 1995 accessed June 23, 2017
  6. ^ "Nathaniel R. Jones - Blank Rome LLP".
  7. ^ Youngstown State University Alumni News Briefs, July 22, 2016; accessed June 23, 2017.
  8. ^ a b Skolnick, David (May 6, 2003). "Crowd honors Judge Jones as courthouse is named". The Vindicator. p. B-1.
  9. ^ "NAACP announces 2016 convention theme "Our Lives Matter, Our Voices Count"". March 8, 2016. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  10. ^ Gray, David (2012). The History of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio F&AM 1971 – 2011: The Fabric of Freemasonry. Columbus, Ohio: Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio F&AM. p. 414. ISBN 978-0615632957.


External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
John Weld Peck II
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
Succeeded by
R. Guy Cole Jr.