February 5, 2003 - Richmond Times-Dispatch: Turkey RPCV Elaine Jones fought for justice

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By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, February 08, 2003 - 4:21 pm: Edit Post

Turkey RPCV Elaine Jones fought for justice

Read and comment on this story from the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Elaine Jones who served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Turkey in the 1960's before being admitted to law school and went on to become president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. She is the first woman to hold that post - one of many distinctions for one of America's foremost civil rights lawyers. The Returned Volunteer community is proud to count fighters for justice like Elaine Jones among our members. Read the story at:


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Feb 5, 2003 - Richmond Times-Dispatch

Author(s): Michael Paul Williams Times-Dispatch Staff

Elaine Jones overcame the constraints of segregated Virginia to become a groundbreaker and change maker.

Jones, 58, is president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. She is the first woman to hold that post - one of many distinctions for one of America's foremost civil rights lawyers.

In 1967, she became the first African-American woman to enroll at the University of Virginia's Law School. She would later be the first African-American elected to the American Bar Association's board of governors.

"From early childhood I have always known that the struggle for equality would be my life," Jones told Ebony magazine.

Elaine R. Jones was born in Norfolk, the daughter of a Pullman porter and a schoolteacher. She learned at an early age about inequality.

"What really drove it home ... my father was a Pullman porter and traveled quite a bit. He took the three of us, my sister, brother and me to New York and Chicago ... and on those trips we walked the streets. We couldn't find a place to stay.

"That was America. That was the mid-'50s. And that shouldn't be. I said to myself, 'There's something wrong.'"

She finished Norfolk's Booker T. Washington High School and graduated with honors in political science from Howard University. She served a two-year stint with the Peace Corps in Turkey before being admitted to law school.

During her first week at U.Va., she was mistaken for a cleaning lady by a secretary who asked her to clean out a refrigerator.

"She saw the color. She didn't notice the books," said Jones, recalling that painful reminder of the limits to equality in the America of the 1960s.

She graduated from U.Va. in 1970. Turning down big money with a Wall Street law firm, she joined the Legal Defense Fund. She has remained there since, except for a two-year stint as a special assistant to the secretary of transportation in the Ford administration.

In 1972, two years after graduating from the University of Virginia's law school, Jones was counsel of record in Furman vs. Georgia, a landmark Supreme Court case that at the time abolished the death penalty in 37 states. Later, reworked death-penalty statutes gained the court's approval.

She also has argued many employment discrimination cases, as well as helped lobby for a number of civil rights laws, including the Voting Rights Act of 1982, the Fair Housing Act of 1988, the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

As director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund since 1993, Jones has broadened its mission to promote political participation and economic empowerment while continuing to fight for educational equity, fair employment, fair housing and unbiased administration of criminal justice.

Her recognition came full circle in 1998 when Jones received the University of Virginia Women Center's Distinguished Alumna Award for her life's work fighting discrimination.

The affable Jones remains upbeat, despite a life steeped in struggle.

"People call me an optimist," she said. "But I have a lot of confidence in the American people. If people have the information, they invariably make the right decision."

More about Elaine Jones

Read more about Elaine Jones at:

Rights Advocate Is Law Graduation Speaker

Rights Advocate Is Law Graduation Speaker

By Sean Smith

Chronicle Editor

Elaine R. Jones, president and director-counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Educational Fund, will be the keynote speaker at the Law School Commencement Exercises on Friday, May 26.

Jones, who was appointed the LDF director in 1993, is credited with broadening the organization's mission to include environmental and health care issues. The fourth director-counsel in the fund's 60-year history, she is also the first woman to hold the position. The LDF was founded by Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first black Supreme Court justice.

"We are absolutely thrilled to have Elaine Jones speaking to our graduates," said Law School Dean John Garvey. "It's a chance to teach one last lesson before our new alumni walk out the door. She is the kind of lawyer we would like them to become. Her work at the Legal Defense Fund, her advocacy efforts on behalf of civil rights, her service on the American Bar Association Board of Governors - any one of these would be enough for one career."

In 1970, Jones became the first African American woman to graduate from the University of Virginia School of Law. Invited to join a prestigious Wall Street firm, she instead joined the staff of the LDF, which no longer is formally connected with the NAACP but has long been one of the key players in the civil rights movement.

Elaine R. Jones
Jones first rose to prominence by working on capital punishment cases throughout the South, often under threats from the Ku Klux Klan. She was the counsel of record in the 1972 Supreme Court case Furman v Georgia that abolished the death penalty in 37 states.

After a two-year stint as special assistant to US Secretary of Transportation William Coleman Jr., Jones returned to the LDF in 1977 and continued building a reputation as a skillful negotiator and an advocate for those suffering from social, political and economic discrimination. She is regarded as a major contributor to the reshaping of the federal judiciary to include more people of color and more judges attuned to the importance of civil rights.

In 1989, Jones became the first African American elected to the ABA Board of Governors, and sits on the ABA's Council on Individual Rights and Responsibilities.

Among her publications, Jones wrote the foreword for the 1997 book Dismantling Desegregation: The Quiet Reversal of Brown v Board of Education.

- Law School Communications Manager Nathaniel Kenyon contributed to this story

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Turkey; Special Interests - Justice; Special Interests - Black History Month; Special Interests - Civil Rights



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