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Jones, Elaine R. 1944–

Elaine R. Jones 1944

Lawyer, executive, civil rights activist

Career Fueled by Racism

Graduated with Law Degree

Longtime Career with LDF

Became Director of LDF

Struggled with Life, Work Balance

Sources

Elaine R. Jones is the first female director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting discrimination and civil rights violations through the nations court system. Jones, an attorney whose personal recollections of bigotry helped to shape her career, has spent more than 25 years on the staff of the LDF and has argued numerous cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. By the mid-1990sa time when civil rights litigation was becoming more complicated than ever beforeshe was seeking to broaden the scope of her organization to include such issues as discrimination in health care and the impact of toxic waste on poor and minority communities. Civil rights is not a narrow issue, Jones explained in Black Enterprise. Anything that improves the quality of our lives and lessens the suffering and discrimination of black people helps society as a whole.

Black Enterprise reporters Caroline V. Clarke and Jonathan Sapers noted that Jones faces the challenge of creating battle plans against a variety of forms of racial injustice. After the 12-year Reagan-Bush era, during which time many of the civil rights gains of the 60s were reversed or went unenforced, there is much work to be done, the reporters stated. And Jones appears to be just the type of person to do it. She has a rare gift. Jones is believable and instantly likeable. She has a common touch that in no way undermines her lightning quick intellect. Similar sentiments were expressed by U.S. first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who told the Washington Post of Jones: What we have now as a nation is a great opportunity to turn our attention once again to redefining what it means to be an American. We need leadership and guidance, and how lucky we are that at this point in LDFs history and in this countrys history we have someone like Elaine Jones.

From her earliest girlhood, Jones was determined to become a lawyer so she could help to right the wrongs that her young eyes perceived in the world around her. She was born in 1944 in Norfolk, Virginia, the only daughter of a Pullman porter and a school teacher. New York Times correspondent Catherine S. Manegold described Joness political awakenings in her segregated town: Her father, a Pullman porter who belonged to the nations first black union, brought politics to the dinner table, mixing talk of racial realities and segregation with family matters and second helpings. Her motheradded the conviction that the world could accommodate her daughters boldest ambitions. From her parents, Jones inherited a love of problem solving and the daring to challenge societys narrow perceptions of her worth. I have always known that the struggle for equality would be my life, she told Ebony. Ive always known that.

Career Fueled by Racism

Joness own experiences of socially condoned racism added fuel to her fire. In the New York Times she recalled a visit her family took to Chicago in the early 1950s. They had made a hotel reservation, but when they arrived at the hotel were told they couldnt stay there. Other hotels were mysteriously filledto capacity

At a Glance

Born on March 2, 1944, in Norfolk, VA; daughter of a railroad porter and a schoolteacher. Education: Howard University, BA (with honors), 1965; University of Virginia School of Law, JD, 1970.

Career: NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, New York City, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles offices, assistant counselor, 1970-75; U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, special assistant to secretary of Transportation, 1975-77; NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, legislative advocate and head of Washington, DC office, 1977-88, deputy director-counsel, 1988-93, director-counsel, 1993-.

Memberships: National Bar Association, International Federation of Women Lawyers, Old Dominion Bar Association, Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, Delta Sigma Theta.

Awards: Recognition award for outstanding legal service to the community, 1974, from Black American Law Students Association; special achievement citation, 1975, from National Association of Black Women Attorneys; Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights, 2000.

Addresses: Office NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, 1275 K St. NW, Suite 301, Washington, DC 20005.

as well, and after wandering the streets for hours the exhausted family finally found shelter at a YMCA. That became seared, Jones said. I never will forget it. Nor could she forget the white only and colored only drinking fountains in the train stations and the second-class accommodations in restaurants, public transportation, doctors offices, and other facilities. Thats when I decided my career had to be civil rights, Jones told Ebony. Things had to change.

Although she acknowledged in Essence that it was brazen of me to want to be a lawyer, because I was not only black but also a woman, Jones began to pursue her dreams at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She earned her bachelors degree with honors in 1965 and, after a stint with the Peace Corps in Turkey, became the first black female student admitted to the University of Virginia School of Law. Even there she experienced racism, as she remembered in the New York Times. During her first term at the school, she was resting one day in a lounge outside the womans restroom when she was passed by a middle-aged white woman. She looked at me sitting on the sofa and said, I know youre on your lunch break, honey, but when you finish could you please clean out the refrigerator? Jones recounted.

With a certain grim satisfaction, Jones explained that the incident did not daunt her and that, in fact, she turned it to her advantage. I saw that woman later, she said in the New York Times. She was the deans secretary. When she saw me later, she didnt say anything about that encounter. But, Ill tell you, the whole time I was at that school, there was never anything that I needed out of the deans office that I didnt get.

Graduated with Law Degree

Jones received her law degree from the University of Virginia in 1970, and like many graduates she faced a turning point. She was offered a job with a prestigious Wall Street law firm, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie & Alexander. If I had gone there, she told the New York Times, I probably would be making a million dollars a year by now. Deep down she felt that her path lay elsewhere, doing the work she had imagined as a child among the people who needed her the most. She turned down the job on Wall Street and went to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Joness first assignment with the LDF took her into the South to defend death-row inmates on the grounds that their harsh sentences were racially motivated. Needless to say, this did not make her a welcome visitor in such states as Alabama, where members of the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist group, regularly picketed her trials. Some of the southern justices were stunned by the presence of a black female lawyer in their court-room, she told Essence. Their astonishment aside, the justices found Jones to be a formidable and capable attorney. Just two years out of law school she argued a case before the Supreme Court that abolished the death penalty in 37 states.

In 1973 Jones became the managing attorney in the LDFs New York office-its largest-and devoted herself to mastering the administrative duties of the far-flung enterprise. Although retaining its ties to the NAACP in name, the Legal Defense and Educational Fund split from the NAACP in 1957 in order to retain its tax-exempt status. The organization today employs almost 30 full-time attorneys and a support staff of 55 administrators and assistants, based in offices in New York City, Los Angeles, and the nations capital. Since its founding by the late Justice Thurgood Marshall in 1940, the LDF has argued 520 cases before the Supreme Courtmore than any other organization except the U.S. Department of Justice. Its victories include the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation case as well as a more recent $100 million-plus settlement from Shoneys Restaurant, which had been accused of racist hiring and promotion policies.

Longtime Career with LDF

Jones left the LDF briefly in 1975 to work for then-U.S. Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman, Jr., but she returned in 1977 and has been with the organization ever since. In the late 1970s she helped establish and run the LDFs new Washington, D.C. office. There, as a legislative advocate, she tried to influence lawmakers to craft racially-balanced laws in order to forestall future expensive litigation in the court systems. When Thurgood [Marshall] was head of LDF, litigation was really his best help, Jones told Black Enterprise. Now, we litigate because we know it is effective, but you cant litigate alone. I want us to expand, so were no longer limited to courtrooms and briefs. We should be appearing before school boards and senate committees. I want to resolve some of these matters without ever going to court.

In 1988 Jones was promoted to deputy director-counsel of the LDF, a position that made her second-in-command behind LDF director Julius L. Chambers. Jones used her high-profile position to challenge the administrations of presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush on their record of federal judicial appointments. She was an outspoken opponent of Supreme Court nominees Robert Bork in 1987 and Clarence Thomas in 1991.

During this period the LDF was also active in defending challenges to various civil rights issuessuch as the restructuring of voting districts and the constitutionality of scholarships for specific minority groupsthat had been thought past the point of legal challenge. It is important for people to know that our rights are not static, Jones told Ebony. Just as we fight for them, they can be taken away.

Became Director of LDF

Julius Chambers announced that he would step down from directorship of the LDF in 1993. Clarke and Sapers noted in Black Enterprise that the organizations board of directors chose Jones to succeed Chambers almost immediately. She had proven herself a dedicated manager, litigator, strategist and justice seeker over her many years with LDF, the reporters contended. As its deputy director-counsel Jones was Chambers alter ego, running the groups D.C. office and spearheading its legislative advocacy effortson Capitol Hill. Her diligence, persuasiveness and unique ability to build coalitions among competing factions has earned her a reputation as a political mastermind.

As director of the LDF, Jones attempted to broaden her organizations agenda to include more cases of environmental and health care discrimination. Studies have shown that environmental hazards, such as toxic waste dumps, are in some regions disproportionately located near black and poor communities. Lead poisoning is another problem that is particularly acute among black, inner city children.

The political mastermind also had forged powerful connections with the new Clinton administration. Jones met Hillary Clinton in the 1980s when both worked together on an American Bar Association commission on women in law. The two attorneys have been friends ever since.

During Jones career as a litigator and civil rights activist, she has spoken out on many major issues, including judicial appointments, discrimination, capital punishment, voting rights, and fair housing. She is a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of Virginia, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals; U. S. District Courts for the Eastern District of Virginia and the District of Columbia; U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fourth, Fifth, and Eleventh Circuits; and the Supreme Court of the United States. She has followed through with her childhood goal to help others in the role of a lawyer, and has had a lifetime commitment to civil rights and has been able to address civil rights issues through her leadership of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Struggled with Life, Work Balance

Jones, who is single, once calculated that she logs about 200,000 air miles of travel each year for the Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In addition to her litigation duties, she now must keep the organization in the public eye in order to raise funds for the fights to come. Her duties keep her very busy. I have not done a good job of balancing my job and my life, she admitted in Ebony. I have made my work my life, and thats not good. On the other hand, Jones is quite proud of the achievements she has made since her days as an ambitious young lawyer in Norfolk. She uses her own career as an example of discrimination battles that have been won, as well as those that still must be fought. Reflecting on her milestone appointment as the first female director of the LDF, Jones concluded in USA Today: Actually, at this late date I shouldnt be the first anything. If Im still breaking barriers after practicing law for [all these] years, it shows we still have some work to do.

After eleven years as president and director/counsel for the NAACPs LDF, Jones announced her resignation in 2004. She told the New York Times that her decision was based on her meeting one of her main goals for her tenure. It was clear when I took this job that the Supreme Court was going to look at an affirmative action case. Under her direction, the LDF made sure it was what Jones called the right one. Michigan was it, she continued, and it ended in a slam-dunk victory. After that I knew I could go. Under her tenure the LDF had continued its mission for equality and broadened its scope to include environmental and healthcare issues. In a press release in January of 2004, Jones explained that she was not retiring, just stepping aside so that others could lead the LDF, saying that she intended to continue litigating for the LDF into the future.

Sources

Periodicals

Black Enterprise, August 1993, pp. 64-7.

Ebony, June 1993, pp. 66-7; September 2003, p. 26.

Essence, December 1993, p. 52.

New York Times, January 29, 1993, p. B-7; July 18, 1993, p. E-9; January 16, 2004, p. A10.

USA Today, February 19, 1993, p. A6; March 12, 1993, p. A13.

Washington Post, March 11, 1993, p. A10.

On-line

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, www.naacpldf.org (June 3, 2004).

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"Jones, Elaine R. 1944–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Jones, Elaine R. 1944–

Elaine R. Jones 1944

Attorney, organization executive, civil rights advocate

At a Glance

Determined to Make a Difference

Lifetime Dedication to Civil Rights Advances

Became Director-Counsel of the LDF

Sources

Elaine R. Jones is the first female director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting discrimination and civil rights violations through the nations court system. Jones, an attorney whose personal recollections of bigotry helped to shape her career, has spent nearly 25 years on the staff of the LDF and has argued numerous cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. By the mid-1990sa time when civil rights litigation was becoming more complicated than ever beforeshe was seeking to broaden the scope of her organization to include such issues as discrimination in health care and the impact of toxic waste on poor and minority communities. Civil rights is not a narrow issue, Jones explained in Black Enterprise. Anything that improves the quality of our lives and lessens the suffering and discrimination of black people helps society as a whole.

Black Enterprise reporters Caroline V. Clarke and Jonathan Sapers noted that Jones faces the challenge of creating battle plans against a variety of forms of racial injustice. After the 12-year Reagan-Bush era, during which time many of the civil rights gains of the 60s were reversed or went unenforced, there is much work to be done, the reporters stated. And Jones appears to be just the type of person to do it. She has a rare gift. Jones is believable and instantly likeable. She has a common touch that in no way undermines her lightning quick intellect. Similar sentiments were expressed by U.S. first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who told the Washington Post of Jones: What we have now as a nation is a great opportunity to turn our attention once again to redefining what it means to be an American. We need leadership and guidance, and how lucky we are that at this point in LDFs history and in this countrys history we have someone like Elaine Jones.

From her earliest girlhood, Jones was determined to become a lawyer so she could help to right the wrongs that her young eyes perceived in the world around her. She was born in 1944 in Norfolk, Virginia, the only daughter of a pullman porter and a schoolteacher. New York Times correspondent Catherine S. Manegold described Joness political awakenings in her segregated town: Her father, a pullman porter who belonged to the nations first black union, brought politics to the dinner table, mixing talk of racial realities and segregation with family matters and

At a Glance

Born March 2, 1944, in Norfolk, VA; daughter of a railroad porter and a schoolteacher. Education: Howard University, B.A, (with honors), 1965; University of Virginia School of Law, J.D., 1970.

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, New York City, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles offices, assistant counselor, 1970-75; U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, special assistant to secretary of Transportation, 1975-77; NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, legislative advocate and head of Washington, DC office, 1977-88, deputy director-counsel, 1988-93, director-counsel, 1993.

Member: National Bar Association, International Federation of Women Lawyers, Old Dominion Bar Association, Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, Delta Sigma Theta.

Selected awards: Recognition award for outstanding legal service to the community, 1974, from Black American Law Students Association; special achievement citation, 1975, from National Association of Black Women Attorneys.

Addresses: Office NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, 1275 K St. NW, Suite 301, Washington, DC 20005.

second helpings. Her mother added the conviction that the world could accommodate her daughters boldest ambitions. From her parents, Jones inherited a love of problem-solving and the daring to challenge societys narrow perceptions of her worth. I have always known that the struggle for equality would be my life, she told Ebony. Ive always known that.

Joness own experiences of socially-condoned racism added fuel to her fire. In the New York Times she recalled a visit her family took to Chicago in the early 1950s. They had made a hotel reservation, but when they arrived at the hotel were told they couldnt stay there. Other hotels were mysteriously filled to capacity as well, and after wandering the streets for hours the exhausted family finally found shelter at a YMCA. That became seared, Jones said. I never will forget it. Nor could she forget the white only and colored only drinking fountains in the train stations and the second-class accommodations in restaurants, public transportation, doctors offices, and other facilities. Thats when I decided my career had to be civil rights, Jones told Ebony. Things had to change.

Determined to Make a Difference

Although she acknowledged in Essence that it was brazen of me to want to be a lawyer, because I was not only black but also a woman, Jones began to pursue her dreams at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She earned her bachelors degree with honors in 1965 and became the first black female student admitted to the University of Virginia School of Law. Even there she experienced racism, as she remembered in the New York Times. During her first term at the school, she was resting one day in a lounge outside the womans restroom when she was passed by a middle-aged white woman. She looked at me sitting on the sofa and said, I know youre on your lunch break, honey, but when you finish could you please clean out the refrigerator? Jones recounted.

With a certain grim satisfaction, Jones explained that the incident did not daunt her and that, in fact, she turned it to her advantage. I saw that woman later, she said in the New York Times. She was the deans secretary. When she saw me later, she didnt say anything about that encounter. But, Ill tell you, the whole time I was at that school, there was never anything that I needed out of the deans office that I didnt get.

Jones received her law degree from the University of Virginia in 1970, and like many graduates she faced a turning point. She was offered a job with a prestigious Wall Street law firm, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie & Alexander. If I had gone there, she told the New York Times, I probably would be making a million dollars a year by now. Deep down she felt that her path lay elsewhere, doing the work she had imagined as a child among the people who needed her the most. She turned down the job on Wall Street and went to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Lifetime Dedication to Civil Rights Advances

Joness first assignment with the LDF took her into the South to defend death-row inmates on the grounds that their harsh sentences were racially motivated. Needless to say, this did not make her a welcome visitor in such states as Alabama, where members of the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist group, regularly picketed her trials. Some of the southern justices were stunned by the presence of a black female lawyer in their courtroom, she told Essence. Their astonishment aside, the justices found Jones to be a formidable and capable attorney. Just two years out of law school she argued a case before the Supreme Court that abolished the death penalty in 37 states.

In 1973 Jones became the managing attorney in the LDFs New York officeits largestand devoted herself to mastering the administrative duties of the far-flung enterprise. Although retaining its ties to the NAACP in name, the Legal Defense and Educational Fund split from the NAACP in 1957 in order to retain its tax-exempt status. The organization today employs almost 30 full-time attorneys and a support staff of 55 administrators and assistants, based in offices in New York City, Los Angeles, and the nations capital. Since its founding by the late Justice Thurgood Marshall in 1940, the LDF has argued 520 cases before the Supreme Courtmore than any other organization except the U.S. Department of Justice. Its victories include the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation case as well as a more recent $ 100 million-plus settlement from Shoneys Restaurant, which had been accused of racist hiring and promotion policies.

Jones left the LDF briefly in 1975 to work for then-U.S. Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman, Jr., but she returned in 1977 and has been with the organization ever since. In the late 1970s she helped establish and run the LDFs new Washington, D.C. office. There, as a legislative advocate, she tried to influence lawmakers to craft racially-balanced laws in order to forestall future expensive litigation in the court systems. When Thurgood [Marshall] was head of LDF, litigation was really his best help, Jones told Black Enterprise. Now, we litigate because we know it is effective, but you cant litigate alone. I want us to expand, so were no longer limited to courtrooms and briefs. We should be appearing before school boards and senate committees. I want to resolve some of these matters without ever going to court.

In 1988 Jones was promoted to deputy director-counsel of the LDF, a position that made her second-in-command behind LDF director Julius L. Chambers. Jones used her high-profile position to challenge the administrations of presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush on their record of federal judicial appointments. She was an outspoken opponent of Supreme Court nominees Robert Bork in 1987 and Clarence Thomas in 1991.

During this period the LDF was also active in defending challenges to various civil rights issuessuch as the restructuring of voting districts and the constitutionality of scholarships for specific minority groupsthat had been thought past the point of legal challenge. It is important for people to know that our rights are not static, Jones told Ebony. Just as we fight for them, they can be taken away.

Became Director-Counsel of the LDF

Julius Chambers announced that he would step down from directorship of the LDF in 1993. Clarke and Sapers noted in Black Enterprise that the organizations board of directors chose Jones to succeed Chambers almost immediately. She had proven herself a dedicated manager, litigator, strategist and justice seeker over her many years with LDF, the reporters contended. As its deputy director-counsel Jones was Chambers alter ego, running the groups D.C. office and spearheading its legislative advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill. Her diligence, persuasiveness and unique ability to build coalitions among competing factions has earned her a reputation as a political mastermind.

The political mastermind also had forged powerful connections with the new Clinton administration. Jones met Hillary Clinton in the 1980s when both worked together on an American Bar Association commission on women in law. The two attorneys have been friends ever since, and Jones is delighted to have an ear in the White House. Both Clinton and Jones hope to see progress on civil rights issues and the appointment of more African Americans to federal benches as the 1990s progress.

As director of the LDF, Jones plans to broaden her organizations agenda to include more cases of environmental and health care discrimination. Recent studies have shown that environmental hazards, such as toxic waste dumps, are in some regions disproportionately located near black and poor communities. Lead poisoning is another problem that is particularly acute among black, inner city children.

The LDF has also fought plans by neighborhood hospitals to move from ghetto districts, and it is paying close attention to civil rights issues as they relate to health care reform. As USA Today columnist Barbara Reynolds wrote: The Republican Just Us Department fought [civil rights] efforts and catered to the rich, old-boy crod. Now, the LDF has powerful friends. Together, [Jones and Hillary Clinton] could write the dispossessed back into the Constitution.

Jones, who is single, once calculated that she logs about 200,000 air-miles of travel each year for the Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In addition to her litigation duties, she now must keep the organization in the public eye in order to raise funds for the fights to come. Her duties keep her very busy. I have not done a good job of balancing my job and my life, she admitted in Ebony. I have made my work my life, and thats not good. On the other hand, Jones is quite proud of the achievements she has made since her days as an ambitious young lawyer in Norfolk. She uses her own career as an example of discrimination battles that have been won, as well as those that still must be fought. Reflecting on her milestone appointment as the first female director of the LDF, Jones concluded in USA Today: Actually, at this late date I shouldnt be the first anything. If Im still breaking barriers after practicing law for [all these] years, it shows we still have some work to do.

Sources

Black Enterprise, August 1993, pp. 64-67.

Ebony, June 1993, pp. 66-67.

Essence, December 1993, p. 52.

New York Times, January 29, 1993, p. B-7; July 18, 1993, p. E-9.

USA Today, February 19, 1993, p. A-6; March 12, 1993, p. A-13.

Washington Post, March 11, 1993, p. A-10.

Anne Janette Johnson

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"Jones, Elaine R. 1944–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Jones, Elaine R. 1944–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jones-elaine-r-1944

"Jones, Elaine R. 1944–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jones-elaine-r-1944