In observance of African American History Month 2020, OFCCP highlights the achievements of civil rights leader Nathaniel R. Jones (1926 – 2020), who championed justice and furthered equality at home and abroad.

The Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones was a lawyer, judge, academic, public servant, and renowned defender of social justice. He was born on May 13, 1926, in Youngstown, Ohio, and served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. After the war, he pursued his education at Youngstown State University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1951 and a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1956.

Admitted to the bar in 1957, Judge Jones, after four years of private practice, served as executive director of the Fair Employment Practices Commission and in 1960 was appointed by Attorney General Robert Kennedy as Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. In 1967, he was appointed Assistant General Counsel to President Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (also known as the Kerner Commission). Briefly returning to private practice, he was asked to serve as NAACP general counsel in 1969. Over the next 10 years, he argued several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and led national efforts to end school segregation and defend affirmative action. Judge Jones investigated discrimination in the armed forces and successfully coordinated the NAACP’s First Amendment defense in the Mississippi Boycott Case. Jones was nominated by President Carter to serve on the United States Court of Appeals in 1979. He took senior status in 1995 and retired from the bench in 2002.

In 2012, he accepted the Jewish National Fund Attorney of the Year award on behalf of the Judge Carl B. Rubin Legal Society. Judge Jones’ accomplishments include receiving the Annual Fellows Award from the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division in 2005, Ohio Bar Medal Award in 2003, and serving as an honorary Co-Chair and Director of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. In 2003, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution naming the federal building and U.S. Courthouse in Youngstown, Ohio, in his honor.

Judge Jones’ distinguished record of community and academic service includes teaching at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, North Carolina Central University School of Law, and Harvard Law School. His efforts in civil and human rights took him to countries around the globe – including, in 1993, serving on the team of observers for the first democratic elections in South Africa. Judge Jones also served as a member of the advisory board of the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights.

In 1996, Judge Jones selected the University of Cincinnati College of Law Library as the repository for his personal and professional papers and other historical materials documenting his entire career. By offering his papers for study by others, Judge Jones realized their social utility. He said he hoped the papers will bring alive some of the realities for “…some who have forgotten or for those who may never have experienced the indignities of legally enforced segregation and discrimination.”

At OFCCP, we have devoted our careers to the pursuit of civil rights. We take inspiration in the achievements of Judge Jones to continue to promote equality.

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