Blank Rome’s Judge Nathaniel Jones Receives Freedom Center's International Freedom Conductor Award; Celebrates 90th Birthday

May 12, 2016

Press Release

Blank Rome LLP is pleased to announce that Of Counsel Judge Nathaniel Jones became the 12th recipient of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center's International Freedom Conductor Award, which recognizes people who "exemplify the values of freedom and human rights worldwide," on Friday, May 6. The event was formally held in honor of Judge Jones’ upcoming 90th birthday on May 13. Judge Jones has been with Blank Rome since 2002 and served as the Firm’s first Chief Officer for Diversity and Inclusion.

In receiving this award, Judge Jones joins the company of Rosa Parks, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, Lech Walesa, and Nelson Mandela. Former President Clinton sent a video message thanking Judge Jones for "nine remarkable decades" of service to the cause of civil rights and equal opportunity, and President Obama wrote a personal letter that was read out loud during the event.

“We are so very proud of our esteemed colleague and dear friend, Judge Jones, for receiving this prestigious award,” said Alan. J. Hoffman, Blank Rome’s Chairman and Managing Partner. “As Judge Jones marks his milestone 90th birthday, we celebrate his countless accomplishments as a civil rights activist and lawyer, and continue to be inspired by all that he has achieved and continues to achieve.”

In addition to this award, on July 20, the NAACP will present Judge Jones with its top honor, the Spingarn Medal, which is awarded annually for the highest achievement of an American of African descent, on the final night of its 2016 national convention at Cincinnati's Duke Energy Convention Center. Past awardees have included Sidney Poitier, Colin Powell, Oprah Winfrey, Langston Hughes, and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Judge Jones’ memoir, Answering the Call: An Autobiography of the Modern Struggle to End Racial Discrimination in America, is being released on May 17, 2016. The book is described by its publishers as "an extraordinary eyewitness account from an unsung hero of the battle for racial equality in America—a battle that, far from ending with the great victories of the civil rights era, saw some of its signal achievements in the desegregation fights of the 1970s and its most notable setbacks in the affirmative action debates that continue into the present in Ferguson, Baltimore, and beyond. Judge Jones’s story is an essential corrective to the idea of a post-racial America—his voice and his testimony offering enduring evidence of the unfinished work of ending Jim Crow’s legacy."

About Judge Nathaniel Jones

In 1962, Judge Jones became the first African American to be appointed as 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 Lyndon B. Johnson's National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Commission. He held the position of general counsel of the NAACP from 1969 to 1979, where he 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, defend affirmative action, and inquire into discrimination against black servicemen in the U.S. military. He also successfully coordinated the NAACP's defense on First Amendment grounds in the Mississippi Boycott case. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter nominated Judge Jones to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He served on the court for 23 years, retiring in 2002. On February 20, 2003, in recognition of his outstanding career as a jurist and civil rights leader, Congress passed H.J. Res. 2 naming the Nathaniel R. Jones Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Youngstown, Ohio.

Judge Jones taught trial advocacy at Harvard Law School and is now an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. He is the holder of 19 honorary degrees. Among numerous other honors and awards, the Nathaniel R. Jones Inn of Court was established in Youngstown, Ohio, in 2014. Judge Jones received the Lifetime Achievement Award from The American Lawyer in 2007, the Trailblazer Award from Just the Beginning Foundation in 2006, the Annual Fellows Award from the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division in 2005, the Award of Excellence from the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund in 2004, the Ohio Bar Medal Award from the Ohio State Bar Association in 2003, and he was inducted into the National Bar Association Hall of Fame in 2002. He was also named a "Great Living Cincinnatian" in 1997.

Judge Jones is a member of more than two dozen civic and community organizations, including the Board of Directors of KnowledgeWorks Foundation, the Board of Directors of the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, the Board of Trustees of the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, the Board of Trustees of the Southern Africa Legal Services Foundation, the Board of Directors of the American Constitution Society, and the Advisory Committee of the Urban Morgan International Human Rights Institute. He served as a member of the Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America, Inc. Diversity Advisory Board from 2002 to 2014, and is honorary co-chair and board member of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.