Nathaniel R. Jones


Honorary Degree (1990)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Indianapolis
Presenter: Thomas Ehrlich


The Honorable Nathaniel Raphael Jones, Judge of the United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, has earned widespread respect for his leadership in the cause of civil rights. His work has influenced advances in civil rights and desegregation across the country.

Judge Jones was born in Youngstown, Ohio, and served in the United States Air Force during World War II. Enrolling at Youngstown State University, he received the B.A. in 1951 and the J.D. in 1956. He entered public life in Youngstown as Executive Director of the Fair Employment Practices Commission, and Executive Director of the Mayor's Human Relations Commission. His outstanding abilities were recognized early, and in 1961 he became Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. In 1967, Judge Jones was appointed Assistant General Counsel for the President's National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, known as the Kerner Commission. Through his excellent service to the Commission, he became still more widely known, and in 1969 he was appointed National General Counsel to the NAACP. He served in that position for ten years.

During his career, Judge Jones's dedication to eliminating segregation has led him to undertake numerous cases involving school systems in the United States. As chief counsel to the NAACP, he coordinated the organization's efforts to end segregation in northern schools. He supervised the NAACP's defense in the Mississippi boycott case that resulted in a landmark Supreme Court decision dealing with the right of individuals to engage in protest under the First Amendment.

In 1979, Judge Jones was appointed Judge of the United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit. He has carried his commitment to the cause of civil rights beyond the borders of the United States, visiting the Soviet Union on behalf of the Committee on Soviet Jewry, and lecturing at judicial seminars in South Africa. As a federal judge, he served on a team of observers in South Africa at a time when that endeavor was difficult and dangerous. For many years he has worked to support and enhance legal education, lecturing as an invited speaker and serving on the advisory boards of several major U.S. law schools.

Judge Jones received the Equal Justice Award of the National Bar Association in 1978, and has been awarded honorary degrees from Youngstown State University, Syracuse University, and the University of Akron School of Law.