Retired judge to be honored

Staff report


Nathaniel R. Jones — retired federal judge, longtime civil-rights advocate and a leading player in the abolition of apartheid — will receive the Youngstown State University Friend of the University Award on Saturday.

Jones, retired judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, will receive the award at a dinner at the Youngstown Club in downtown Youngstown. The awards dinner is by invitation.

Initiated in 1997, the annual award recognizes alumni, friends and donors who have had a significant impact on YSU.

Previous recipients include the Schwebel and Beeghly families, Tony and Mary Lariccia, Frank and Norma Watson, and John and Denise DeBartolo York.

Jones, a native of Youngstown, served in the Army and then attended YSU, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1951 and his law degree in 1955. He was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1957.

From 1956 to 1959, he was executive director of the Fair Employment Practices Commission of Youngstown.

He then began private practice and a year later was appointed as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland.

In 1967, he served as assistant general counsel to President Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders.

In 1969, Jones was invited to assume the responsibility as general counsel of the NAACP, a position he held for 10 years.

In May 1979, President Carter announced his intention to appoint Jones to the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Sixth Circuit. Jones took his oath of office Oct. 15, 1979.

After his retirement from the Court of Appeals in March 2002, Judge Jones assumed a position as counsel with Blank Rome LLP. He was named the firm’s chief diversity and inclusion officer in 2006. In addition, he serves as honorary co-chairman and director of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.

He has taught at several law schools throughout the nation and has 18 honorary degrees.

An internationally renowned civil-rights activist, Jones played an important role in furthering the abolition of apartheid in South Africa. The drafters of South Africa’s new constitution and laws consulted him, and he conferred with Nelson Mandela upon Mandela’s release after 27 years of imprisonment.

Jones has authored numerous articles and papers and has been the recipient of many honors and awards.

In Youngstown, the Nathaniel R. Jones Federal Building and Courthouse at Wick Avenue and Commerce Street is named in his honor.

Among his many honors:

Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.’s Laurel Wreath Award.

The American Lawyer’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Just The Beginning Foundation’s Trailblazer award.

The Metropolitan Club’s 2005 Metropolitan Award.

The 2005 Annual Fellows Award from the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division.

The Queen City Foundation’s Robert L. Black, Jr. Award of Excellence and Diversity in Education.

The Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund Award of Excellence.

Jones is married to the former Lillian Hawthorne. They have four children and six grandchildren. Three of their children are lawyers, and one is an Atlanta businessman.