Senators honor life of Youngstown-native civil rights activist

National and World

Judge Nathaniel Jones passed away at his home in Cincinnati in January, but his legacy will live on for generations

Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown, Ohio Senators.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WKBN) – With Black History Month as the backdrop, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman introduced a resolution on Monday honoring the life, legacy and work of Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Nathaniel R. Jones.

Jones, a civil rights activist and Youngstown native, was the first African American Federal Appeals Court Judge in Ohio. He was also the first black prosecutor in the Northern District of Ohio.

He served 23 years as a Judge of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

Jones passed away at his home in Cincinnati in January, but Brown said his legacy will live on for generations.

“Judge Jones devoted his entire life to answering the call for racial justice, and his unwavering commitment to this country is one we should all aspire to emulate. He not only fought to make this country a better place, but he paved the way for generations of lawyers, clerks and advocates that will follow him,” said Brown.

“We lost a giant in Judge Nathaniel Jones. Through his work as a lawyer, he was a national leader in advancing civil rights and as a judge, a distinguished champion in protecting those rights. Through it all, he was a humble man of the highest integrity. I’m proud to introduce this resolution honoring my friend Nate Jones,” said Portman.

Jones was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, and attended Youngstown State University, where he earned an undergraduate degree in 1951 and a law degree in 1955.

He later went on to serve in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II.

In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Judge Nathaniel Jones to serve as the Assistant General Counsel for the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Commission.

The final report issued by the commission found racism to be the cause of civil unrest occurring in cities across the U.S. during the 1960s, and determined that the United States was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.”

Jones also served as the General Counsel for NAACP from 1969 to 1979, directing efforts to desegregate public schools in northern cities, defending affirmative action and fighting against discrimination against African American soldiers in U.S. Armed Forces.

Jones received 19 honorary degrees and numerous awards of distinction, such as the Spingarn Medal, the highest honor awarded by the NAACP, the International Freedom Conductor Award from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Charles Hamilton Houston Medallion of Merit from the Washington Bar Association, and the Pillar of Justice Award from the Federal Bar Association.

A copy of the Senators’ resolution can be found here.

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