Local judges speak on former Judge Nathaniel Jones’ impact

Black History Month

They call him a role model and a mentor in their own careers on the bench

(WKBN) – Nathaniel Jones passed away Sunday in Cincinnati at the age of 93. After growing up in Youngstown, Jones came to lead the legal fight for civil rights.

Two local judges spoke about the former judge, whom they called a role model and a mentor in their own careers on the bench.

U.S. District Judge Benita Pearson grew up knowing of Nathaniel Jones’ reputation as a law school student and aspiring young attorney. The first time she ever met him face-to-face was when she interviewed for her job on the federal bench.

“And by the way, his questions during that interview were the most intimidating I received, but they were also the most illuminating I received,” said Judge Pearson.

She says Jones leaves a legacy of inspiration for lawyers and judges alike.

“But especially those of us of color. He was a role model. He was someone to emulate,” Pearson said.

Jones was born in 1926 in Youngstown and grew up in Smoky Hollow.

After graduating from what was then Youngstown College, he became the first African American ever named an Assistant U.S. Attorney for this part of Ohio before taking over as General Counsel for the NAACP, a position where he directed all litigation the organization took on.

Jones was appointed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in 1979, retiring as Senior Judge in 2002.

“He was a great, stately, impressive, accomplished jurist,” said Judge R. Scott Krichbaum.

Mahoning County Judge Scott Krichbaum had known Jones the last 40 years, back to his days as bailiff in the ’70s.

“If he walked in the room, he had a presence about him that captivated everybody in the room,” said Krichbaum.

In 2003, Youngstown’s new Bankruptcy Court was opened, bearing Jones’ name.

Judge Pearson says that while she’ll miss his laughter and his insights, she knows Nathaniel Jones will never be that far away.

“He’s where he needs to be. He’s in my head and in my heart,” said Pearson.

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