The Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones
Of Counsel, Blank Rome LLP
Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Ret.)
The Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones was born in Youngstown, Ohio and attended the public schools there. After service in the United States Army Air Corps in World War II, he was educated at Youngstown State University, receiving his A.B. in 1951 and his L.L.B. 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 the City of Youngstown. He then began private practice, and a year later was appointed as an Assistant United States 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, also known as the Kerner Commission. In 1969, Judge Jones was invited to assume the responsibility as general counsel of the NAACP. He held that position from 1969 to 1979.
On May 17, 1979, at a White House ceremony, President Carter announced his intention to appoint Nathaniel Jones to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Judge Jones took his oath of office on October 15, 1979.
Following his retirement from the Court of Appeals in March 2002, Judge Jones assumed a position as Of Counsel with Blank Rome LLP. From December 2006 through June 2011 he served as the firm’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. In addition he 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 serves as a member of the KnowledgeWorks Foundation Board of Trustees, a member of several other boards and participates in a variety of other activities. Judge Jones served as a member of the Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America, Inc. Diversity Advisory Board, and was U.S. Co-Chair for the 2012 WorldChoir Games. He has taught at several law schools throughout the United States and is the holder of 19 honorary degrees.
An internationally renowned civil rights activist, Judge 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 from 27 years of imprisonment.
Judge Jones has authored numerous articles and papers and has been the recipient of many honors and awards. Most recently he received the International Freedom Conductor Award from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The Nathaniel R. Jones American Inn of Court was chartered in Youngstown, Ohio in 2014. He has received the Pillar of Justice Award from the Federal Bar Association, the Governor’s Humanitarian Award from the Ohio Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission, the Changing the Odds Award from the Children’s Defense Fund, the Charles Hamilton Houston Medallion of Merit from the Washington Bar Association and Washington Bar Association Educational Foundation, Inc., induction into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame, Youngstown State University’s Friend of the University Award, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.’s Laurel Wreath Award, The American Lawyer’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Just The Beginning Foundation’s Trailblazer Award, the Annual Fellows Award from the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division, the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund Award of Excellence, the Ohio Bar Medal from the Ohio State Bar Association and was honored by radio station WCIN and The Fifth Third Bank as one of “The Fifty Most Influential Blacks in Cincinnati in the Last Half Century.” His other awards include the prestigious Professionalism Award for the Sixth Circuit by the American Inns of Court, the Thurgood Marshall Award from the National Bar Association’s Judicial Council, induction into the National Bar Association Hall of Fame, the Millennium International Volunteer Award from the United States Department of State in March 2000 and in February 1997, he was recognized by the Chamber of Commerce as one of the “Great Living Cincinnatians.”
On February 20, 2003, the United States Congress passed H.J.Res.2, officially naming the Nathaniel R. Jones Federal Building & United States Courthouse in Youngstown, Ohio.
On March 8, 2016 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People announced its selection of Nathaniel R. Jones as recipient of its 101st Spingarn Medal (to be presented July 20, 2016).
Judge Jones was married for 36 years to the late Lillian Hawthorne Jones. He has four children and six grandchildren.