The Papers of Judge Nathaniel R. Jones

"We're honored to receive Judge Jones' papers, which chronicle the last fifty years of the civil rights struggle. From them we will be able to learn about the struggle for human rights from someone who has experienced the struggle at every level - from his early life as a private individual working for change, to a powerful judge one step away from the Supreme Court."

Joseph P. Tomain Dean Emeritus and Wilbert and Helen Ziegler Professor of Law

Introduction to the Collection

In 1996, United States Court of Appeals Judge Nathaniel R. Jones selected the University of Cincinnati College of Law Library as the repository for his personal and professional papers and other historical materials. Judge Jones' papers document his entire career, first as a key figure in public affairs - including civil rights - and later as a federal judge of international prominence. By offering his papers for study by others, Judge Jones realizes their social utility. He hopes they 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." - Nathaniel R. Jones


Biographical Sketch

The Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones has distinguished himself as a lawyer, jurist, academic, public servant and renowned defender of social justice. He was born on May 13, 1926, 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.

After four years in private practice, Judge Jones served as Executive Director of the Fair Employment Practices Commission and then 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, Judge Jones returned to private practice with the firm of Goldberg and Jones in Youngstown.

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.

More recently he has been honored with accepting the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Attorney of the Year award on behalf of the Judge Carl B. Rubin Legal Society (2012). Judge Jones’ many accomplishments include receiving the Annual Fellows Award from the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division in 2005, Ohio Bar Medal Award in 2003, as well as, serving as an honorary co-chair and director of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center here in Cincinnati.

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.