NATHANIEL R. JONES
Civil Rights Lawyer and Judge
Just a few blocks from the Smoky Hollow community in Youngstown, Ohio, where
Nathaniel R. Jones grew up, stands the Nathaniel R. Jones Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse.
This was certainly not something that Jones had dreamed of.
He was a good student and caught the eye of African American newspaper publisher,
Maynard Dickerson, while he was still in high school. Jones was soon writing
a sports column for the Buckeye Review. When Jones finished high school, he was enlisted into
the US Army Air Corps and served in Dayton, Ohio.
After his army experience, he returned home and attended Youngstown State University,
followed by Youngstown State University Law School. He worked for four years as a private
practice lawyer and then, in 1961, was appointed executive director of the Fair Employment
Practices Commission, where he could work on a federal level assuring that African Americans
had equal opportunities in employment. After Civil Rights Lawyer and Judge
this, he served on the Kerner Commission, which investigated the causes of the race riots that
began with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.
Then Roy Wilkins, the Executive Director of the NAACP, asked him to lead their
law team. In Jones’ acceptance speech, he said, “We still live in the basement of the great
society.” As general counsel for the NAACP, he worked for integration of northern schools, affirmative
action, and equality in the US armed services.
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter nominated Jones as judge of the US Court of Appeals, and
he served in this position for twenty-three years. He retired in 2002, and he continues to
work as a lawyer in private practice. He has a wife and four children.