Judge Jones to speak at black history conference in Cincy

One of the oldest, if not the oldest, organizations dedicated to the preservation of black history is having its annual conference in Ohio, and one of Youngstown’s native sons will be a featured speaker.

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History, established by Dr. Carter G. Woodson and others in 1915, will have its 102nd conference in Cincinnati on Sept. 27-Oct 1.

Thanks to information provided to me by Kenneth “Brother K” King of Youngstown, I am now sharing that information with my readers.

ASALH has branches across the country and abroad. There is a branch in Pittsburgh and one in Dayton. The upcoming meeting in Cincinnati will mark the induction of Ohio’s second branch in the host city.

The conference will be at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Hotel, 35 W. Fifth St. The 2017 theme is “The Crisis in Black Education.”

The early-bird deadline has passed, but the regular registration deadline continues through Sept. 12. Nonmember fees range from $280 for adults, $175 for senior citizens 65 and older and $140 for students. Check the website – https://asalh.org – for other prices and to register.

“Judge [Nathaniel R.] Jones is still making contributions in his 90s. Not only is the judge black history himself, but with his participation in establishing Ohio’s second ASALH branch he is contributing to Woodson’s mission of advancing the cause of telling, embracing and celebrating our history,” King wrote to me in his email.

The ASALH’s mission is to “promote, research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about black life, history and culture to the global community,” according to its website.

Korey Bowers Brown (no relation to yours truly) wrote a synopsis on Woodson that appears on the site.

Woodson, who was born in 1875 and died in 1950, was the son of former slaves.

“Although he did not begin his formal education until he was [almost] 20 years old, his dedication to study enabled him to earn a high-school diploma in West Virginia and bachelor and master’s degrees from the University of Chicago in just a few years. In 1912, Woodson became the second African American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard University,” Brown writes.

In 1926, Dr. Woodson initiated the celebration of Negro History Week, which corresponded with the birthdays of black abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, the celebration was expanded to include the entire month of February, “and today Black History Month garners support throughout the country as people of all ethnic and social backgrounds discuss the black experience,” Brown writes.

The keynote luncheon speaker Sept. 28 will be Judge Jones, whose topic will be, “Answering the Call.”

The biography of the judge is exceptionally long, but I’ll point out some of the highlights of a remarkable professional and civil-rights activist career that included service in the Army Air Corps in World War II.

The judge, who turned 91 in May, is a graduate of South High School and Youngstown College (now Youngstown State University). He was admitted to the Ohio Bar Association in 1957. In 1960, he was appointed as an assistant United States attorney for the Northern District in Ohio in Cleveland.

In 1967, he served as assistant general counsel to President Lyndon Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, better known as the Kerner Commission. From 1969 to 1979, he served as general counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

President Jimmy Carter, in 1979, announced he would appoint the judge to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the judge took his oath of office in October of that year. He retired from the appellate court, based in Cincinnati, in 2002, and joined the Blank Rome law firm in that city, where he served five years as the firm’s chief diversity and inclusion officer.

He has participated in a numerous activities, including service as an emeritus member of the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, a national organization committed to providing every learner with meaningful personalized learning experiences that ensure success in college, career and civic life.

He played an important role in furthering the abolition of apartheid in South Africa. He conferred with Nelson Mandela upon Mandela’s release from 27 years of imprisonment. Mandela would go on to serve as president of South Africa for five years. He died in 2013.

Judge Jones also has made time to keep in touch with his Youngstown roots. He was here this week to support Atty. Carla Baldwin, who is attempting to become the first black woman elected as a judge in the Mahoning Valley in November.

He was the 2012 keynote speaker at the Youngstown Chapter of the NAACP’s annual Freedom Fund Banquet. Thanks to the efforts of the late U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., Congress passed a resolution in 2003, officially naming a federal courthouse building in downtown Youngstown at Wick Avenue and Commerce Street in his honor. The judge and his late wife, Lillian Hawthorne Jones, have four children and several grandchildren.

Here’s hoping several Youngstowners and Mahoning Valley residents will take the opportunity to head about five hours south of Youngstown to the Queen City to attend the conference, learn more about the ASALH and its president Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, who was in Youngstown in March 2016 thanks to Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, and YSU, and, of course, support one the greatest men this Valley has produced.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at ebrown@vindy.com