Judge Jones, Senior Counsel and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the firm Blank Rome LLP, served two decades on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals after he was appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. From 1956 to 1959, he was executive director of the Fair Employment Practices Commission of the City of Youngstown. In 1960, he was appointed by President Kennedy as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
An authority on civil rights litigation, his career included service as deputy general counsel to President Lyndon Johnson’s Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission), which investigated the 1967 race riots across the country. In 1969, he became general counsel of the NAACP, a position formerly held by Thurgood Marshall. During his 10-year service as general counsel, he argued school desegregation cases in cities across the nation, Ohio and in the U.S. Supreme Court.
An internationally renowned civil rights activist, Judge Jones played an important role in furthering the abolition of apartheid in South Africa and was consulted by the drafters of South Africa’s new constitution and laws. In 1986, he served on a four-member team that went to the former Soviet Union to meet with Soviet officials and Jewish Refuseniks in connection with human rights.
On Feb. 20, 2003, the Nathaniel R. Jones Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Youngstown, Ohio – just blocks from where he was born – was named in his honor. A World War II veteran, he served with the United States Army Air Corps before completing his education at Youngstown State University, earning his AB in 1951 and his LLB in 1956. He was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1957. Among his many honors, he is a member of the National Bar Association Hall of Fame and has received The American Lawyer’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2009, he was awarded the prestigious Laurel Wreath by Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. In 1997, Judge Jones was honored as a Great Living Cincinnatian.
Jones serves as honorary co-chair and director of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, after serving as co-chair until its opening in August 2004. He participates in a variety of other activities and serves as a member of the Toyota Motor Manufacturing, North America, Inc. Diversity Advisory Board; member of KnowledgeWorks Foundation Board of Trustees; and director emeritus of the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative.
He has taught at several law schools throughout the United States including the UC College of Law. He holds numerous national awards and honorary degrees including an honorary doctorate from UC. In 1996, the Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones selected the UC College of Law to be the repository of his papers covering his entire career. He is currently completing the writing of his memoir.